Thursday, September 22, 2016
Here’s a story that will give you a peek into why I love officiating weddings. . .
Sheryl and her fiancé Tad (names changed) decided to have an intimate weekday wedding at Table Rock Beach, a secluded slice of Laguna Beach. They invited ten close friends to their celebration. Tad’s family is in Tennessee and later in the month Tad and Sheryl were going back for a party in their honor.
I visited Sheryl at her hotel room. It was small, funky and cramped with her gal pals fussing over her. Sheryl twirled about showing off her white thrift store dress. Had they been in a presidential suite, they could not have been happier.
I made my way over to the ceremony spot. To get to the beach, you have to walk down 144 steep steps. As I made my way down, I noticed several boys and girls playing Frisbee. They were just a little older than Sheryl and Tad were on the day of their first kiss. He was fourteen and she was thirteen. They became high school sweethearts. After graduation life got in the way and they drifted apart. Over the years they were hazily aware of each other’s whereabouts and then, a year ago, Tad reached out on Facebook. . .
It grows late and light is falling. As we wait for Sheryl and her posse, Tad tells me that his daddy is deceased – he died when his tractor rolled over on him – he was only thirty-nine. Tad’s great-granddaddy died when Tad was twenty.
He talks about these rough-hewn farming men with a quaver in his voice. He loved them and I’m moved by the still rawness of his love. Mist is inching in on us and I have the sense that the spirits of Tad’s father and grandfathers are here with us.
Today is the 51st wedding anniversary of Tad’s parents. That’s why he wanted to get married on this day.
He’s starting a new job. He sweated through seven interviews for the job of laying cable in Long Beach. He admits that he doesn’t have “much self-confidence” and so the interview process was grueling. He starts work tomorrow at 7:30am – no time for a honeymoon.
He may not think he has confidence, but on this night he has all the confidence he needs to marry the woman he loves – and has loved for most of his life.
I have Tad and the friends who’ve gathered move over to a spot that won’t be washed up by the in-coming tide.
A woman forms a circle with tossed rose petals.
Folks begin to hum the wedding march as we glimpse Sheryl at the top of the stairs. As clichéd as it sounds, she really is a vision of loveliness as she descends through the mist!
There’s no photographer – just smart phones. They read their personal vows by the light of an i-phone supplied by a friend
They are a stolid couple throughout the ceremony, though they do share an occasional shy, sly wink.
Tad is a simple man whose life is grounded in the continuity of family. He was able to be there on that beach because of them.
“The institution of marriage” is such a cold phrase that doesn’t capture what these two are about. . .standing on that beach – fragile, scared and scarred, brave and hopeful, generous and ignorant. When they first kissed thirty years ago they had no idea what it would take to get to this moment in time.
I’m again reminded of my favorite quote from the movie, “Shall We Dance?”
In a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things—all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it.’ Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’
Tad has witnessed three generations of men grow old with the women they loved and married. And now he takes his place alongside them. Now he becomes a witness to the woman he loves.
A bride in a thrift store dress – a groom grateful for a new job – a couple who took thirty years to make good on their first kiss – those are not the components of an “institution” and those are not the props of a fairy tale. They are the markers of a life lived in all its glory and in all its uncertainty.
Earlier in the evening, while waiting at the bottom of those 144 steps with Tad, a teenaged boy walked by, noticed Tad’s blue sneakers and then glanced at his eyes. Nodding to the shoes, he said, “Cool, they match your eyes” and bounded up the steps.
It was a remarkably small detail but what’s a life well lived other than the accumulation of remarkable details?
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
photo: Dale Robinette/Lionsgate
A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short.
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 twenties – laughing, animated. And at the other table sat an elderly couple in their seventies – talking, smiling. I thought—now here’s a snapshot of marriage – not so much “before” and “after” as “early” and “later.” Except for the wrinkles, little differentiated the older couple from the younger. Smiling, talking, laughing.
The German philosopher Nietzsche claimed that in its essence, marriage is one long, grand conversation. The simple truth is that a lifetime of hearty conversation is the surest sign of love.
I’ve officiated over one thousand weddings and I’m now convinced that THE question every couple needs to explore before sending out their invitations is this – What does your wedding celebration mean to you?
You need to be clear on your answer at the beginning of your planning because in the hubbub of organizing for your wedding day, it’s easy to lose sight of just what the day means to you and your partner.
In the chaos of planning, you’ll be surprised at how little time you have to talk to each other. So at the beginning of the process, before you dive in, talk about the ceremony and your vows.
Go some place you both enjoy.
Make a date with each other.
Turn off the cell phones.
Remind yourselves why you’re doing this craziness.
Ashley and Dan invited me to have pizza as we finalized the ceremony details. It was going to be ninety degrees the afternoon of their outdoor ceremony and Dan reminded me he wanted it kept barebones short. As he droned on, I noticed Ashley was quiet and no longer smiling. Her family was Roman Catholic and not happy that she wasn’t getting married in the Church. At our first meeting, she said she wanted a ceremony that wasn’t rushed. As Dan dove into his pizza, Ashley took out some tissue. She was clearly upset, so I asked her to tell Dan her concerns.
Caught off guard, he put his pizza down and listened as she blurted out her fears that the ceremony was going to be hurried and too short. He was surprised and admitted that although Ashley had told him what she wanted the ceremony to be like, he’d forgotten what she’d said. In the weeks leading up to this final meeting, he hadn’t really listened to her.
As they continued to talk – and listen – they were relieved to discover that they both wanted the same thing. Dan’s idea of “short” was no more than twenty-five minutes. He didn’t want the full-blown one-hour Catholic service. Ashley didn’t want that either. She wanted a twenty to twenty-five minute ceremony, which she thought was just right and not short.
It’s been said that listening is the greatest act of love. If so, then the greatest thing you can do for each other is to listen to each other.
Text messages. Emojis. Scribbled notes. We do business and live our lives in a swirl of information. Yet, how often are we actually communicating, listening?
I recently reunited with a couple whose wedding I officiated fifteen years ago. They look older but their spirits are as I remember them. Open, inquisitive, yet clearly defined in their ongoing aspirations. Jack Daniels joined us at the table and story begat story. It was a magical night.
As I was leaving, Frank suddenly asked me: “Do you know why Renee and I are still in love?” Various answers came to mind, but I simply said, “No, why are you still in love?” He said: “We’re kind to each other.”
He explained how they consciously decided that they didn’t ever want to lose sight of being each other’s partner and best friend – not punching bag or dumping ground for the day’s irritations.
Listening is the kindness act of all.
I know that you have a gazillion things to juggle, professionally and personally. But, why go to the expense, time, and emotional investment of your wedding if you aren’t going to be present to it – and to your partner – and to your marriage?
There is no greater thing you can do for each other than to listen. It is the ultimate sign of respect. And yet the #1 complaint I hear from couples is each accusing the other of not listening.
Remember: You protect and keep each other safe when you talk with each other. Really talk—silly to serious. You can’t plan your ceremony, your wedding, or your life, without talking. Real listening keeps you on the same page and helps you to remember what’s important and why it’s important.
A wedding vow, in its essence, is a vow to listen to each other in mutual fidelity and perseverance.
7 SANITY SAVER tips to help you listen to yourself and to your partner:
1. Get rid of all distractions. Yes, turn the TV off and agree not to answer any phone call. You’ll have time for all those other things later. Don’t ever multi-task when talking about wedding “stuff” – particularly your vows!
2. Listen openly to what your partner has to say without becoming defensive, even if you don’t readily agree with what he or she is saying.
3. Let the other person complete their thought. Don’t interrupt or finish each other’s sentences.
4. Engage your partner in genuine conversation. Don’t deliver a monologue or a scolding.
5. Ask your partner to explain what he means, she means, if you don’t understand his thinking or her take on things.
6. Pay attention to the feelings that lurk underneath what your partner is and is not expressing.
7. Paraphrase back to your partner what they’ve said, so you confirm that you do understand what they’re saying. Ask for clarification.
10 Questions You and Your Partner Need To Explore
Before You Lose Yourself On Pinterest!
1. Who are your role models for marriage? Why are they models? How realistic a model are they?
2. When people speak of your wedding, what 3 words do you want them to say? What 3 words do you not want them to say?
3. Is your wedding day a beginning or a touch point in your life together?
4. What was the most joyful wedding you’ve attended? What do you want to be the most joyful moment of your wedding day?
5. Is your partner your life OR does your partner give you life?
6. What makes your partner worthy of your love? What makes you worthy of your partner’s love?
7. What are your expectations of each other? Do your expectations make each of you the best you are capable of being?
8. What is your biggest fear for your life together?
9. What is your definition of success? As an individual? As a couple?
10. On your 25th wedding anniversary, what would you like to look back upon?
Friday, September 9, 2016
I came across this item and filed it away. I’ve got two nieces and five goddaughters and I thought this was something I’d like them to read (and embrace!). . .
It then occurred to me that this is actually a wonderful “creed” for any bride and so I’m sharing it here.
I’ve looked for “The Real Man’s Creed” and couldn’t find one. Grooms – any suggestions as to how your creed should read?
The Real Woman Creed
By Jan Phillips, CA
I believe that within me lies an extraordinary radiance, and I commit to letting my light loose in the world.
I believe that the source of my power and wisdom is in the center of my being, and I commit to acting from this place of strength.
I believe that I possess an abundance of passion and creative potential, and I commit to the expression of this gift.
I believe that the time has come to let go of old notions and unhealthy attitudes, and I commit to re-examine what I have been told about beauty and dismiss what insults my soul.
I believe that negative thoughts and words compromise my well-being, and I commit to thinking and speaking positively about myself and others.
I believe it is my spiritual responsibility to care for my body with respect, kindness and compassion. I commit to balancing my life in such a way that my physical being is fully expressed and nurtured.
I believe that joy is an essential part of wellness, and I commit to removing obstacles to joy and creating a life of exuberance.
I believe that a woman who loves herself is a powerful, passionate, attractive force, and I commit, from this day forward, to loving myself deeply and extravagantly.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
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.
Out Of the Secret Planet
Having officiated upwards of one thousand wedding ceremonies, I’m now convinced that no one really knows what it is they’re vowing when they offer their vows! How could they? How could you?
There are many versions of the traditional vows, and here’s the simplest:
I ___ take you___to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in god times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life. This is my solemn vow.
Lovely. Moving. Inspiring. But what do those words mean? You don’t really know what they mean until you actually set about living your married life.
Last night I had the honor and delight to officiate the 20th Anniversary vow renewal for Billie and Chris. I officiated their wedding twenty years ago this week. . .
They invited thirty close friends to come and celebrate their twenty-year adventure.
What made the celebration especially poignant is that Multiple Sclerosis has now confined Chris to a wheelchair and he lives in a nursing facility that offers him the care Billie is no longer able to provide.
Twenty years ago they vowed to each other the words I wrote above. On that glorious day they weren’t able to imagine what “good times and bad” or what “sickness and health” would look like and feel like.
Last night was luminous – to be with them and see that they are living with grace and humor and generosity the life they had vowed to live.
For those of us who celebrated with them on their wedding day, we had no way of knowing that twenty years later we’d be celebrating with them at a health care facility – we had hoped for Bora Bora! But we were there and would not have wanted to be anywhere else than with them.
In a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things—all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’
From the movie, Shall We Dance?
Think on it – is there really a better definition of marriage than this? After one thousand weddings, I’m now prepared to say that THIS is THE definition of marriage. Billie and Chris have confirmed this for me.
Their being a witness to each other’s life is a gift to each of us who are privileged to be their friend. They anchor us as they remind us what life is all about.
The goal of our life should not be to find joy in marriage, but to bring more love and truth into the world. We marry to assist each other in this task.
Simply put – our world is a better place because of Billie and Chris.
What we wished for them on their wedding day, at its deepest level, has come to fruition. They are each other’s partner – true and loving.
As I prepared for their vow renewal, I wondered what now, what more, could I wish for them? And then I came across these words:
To love someone deeply gives you strength.
Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.
And so in the name of all present I wished Billie and Chris ~
Continued strength and courage, day in and day out,
all the days of their life together.
It is also my wish for you and your partner. . .
Sunday, August 21, 2016
I recently met with a couple that has narrowed their venue search down to two hotel resorts. Since I familiar with both, they asked which I liked better. I felt a tad cornered! I’ve officiated at each many times and I think they will have a better than good experience at each. BUT, I do think one venue is superior to the other – and not for the reason you might think.
Each has spectacular views and each has had weddings that are splashed all over Pinterest and Instagram. However, my impression is that the folks who work at the venue I prefer are happier than those who work at the other venue.
Huh? How do I know this?
Purely observational. At the venue I recommended, team members are friendly, attentive and consistently one-step ahead of everyone’s needs. Team members at the other venue are good at what they do, but I always have the sense that for them this is a “job.” There is that “something extra” that’s missing from their interactions.
I’ve been thinking about my preference (which I stand by) and have been mulling over what is it a couple should be on the lookout for when selecting a venue.
So, for what it’s worth, here is my list of the little and not so little things you want to pay attention to when scoping out a venue for your celebration:
1. When you pull-up to the entrance, is the valet prompt and smiling? Do you have the sense that he/she is focused, friendly and interested in helping you? The valet sets the tone for what awaits you.
2. If the venue does not provide valet, is the entrance inviting and is parking accessible?
3. What is the venue’s motto? I know of one hotel whose motto is, “We make the impossible possible.” And their service reflects that motto!
4. How does the catering manager present herself/himself? Does the manager ask questions so as to clarify and refine their sense of you? Do you feel relaxed in their company? If not, then bolt!
5. Ask the catering manager, “What do you most enjoy about working here?”
6. Can the venue guarantee that on your wedding date there will be no construction or nearby concerts taking place during ceremony start? Does the venue have a “Plan B” if for any reason a Plan B needs to be orchestrated?
7. Is there a special room for the bride? Concierge service for bride?
8. Does the catering manager follow-up with you within 24hours?
9. Visit on the day of the week you’ll have your wedding and consider the overall “vibe” of the place.
10. Are you and your guests a personality fit with the venue? Is this a place where you and your guests can be “you” and not put on airs?
11. What do your vendors say about the venue?
12. Verify your impressions with reviews found on Wedding Wire or The Knot.
Monday, August 15, 2016
However richly inspired by love, marriage is a high wire act
that is usually attempted by two nervous wrecks who just go for it,
reeling with bliss and blind with the hots.
The rest is work, faith and destiny.
As flippant as that quote may be, I think it offers keen insight into the wedding experience.
I’ve officiated ceremonies for a wide array of couples and what never ceases to astonish me is how many of these folks were nervous wrecks on their wedding day. “Wreck” in the sense that before the ceremony they were so distracted with nerves, they couldn’t socialize and truly were “beside” themselves.
A wedding is a surrealistic experience, no matter the size of the guest list or the setting. There simply isn’t anything like it. While I readily acknowledge that truth, I’m still puzzled by the nervous states of so many of my brides and grooms. I “get” the butterflies in the stomach nervousness but lately I’ve witnessed more extreme nervousness and in each case it tossed a pawl over the celebration.
Katy (all names changed) was so anxious before the ceremony she asked that a glass of water be placed behind one of the pillars near where she’d be standing – in case she felt faint. When it came time to walk down the aisle, she couldn’t move. She stood frozen for what seemed like an eternity but was probably closer to five minutes – okay, in ceremony time that is an eternity! The musicians played her entrance piece four times before she started to walk. I have no idea why she was so nervous, especially since she shared with me that she’d been planning her wedding since she was nine years old!
Annie had a DIY wedding and limited guests to intimate friends and family. She was rapturous when she described how Edward proposed to her. When I arrived, though, for the ceremony, she was distracted and barely smiled. When I checked on her five minutes before the start, I walked in on her snapping at her best friend who also was her hair stylist. During the ceremony, she looked dazed. Afterwards, she was snappish with Edward because the sun was setting and they had less time than anticipated for photos. Why worry about photos when you will never forget in your heart the moment the two of you just shared?
But there are other stories. . .
I recently officiated a wedding where Finn, the groom, told me right before ceremony start how happy he was. In fact, he couldn’t believe just how happy he was. He looked at me with sparkling eyes and said, “All the people I love in this world are here with me right now!” He thanked me for my help, slapped me on the back and said, “Get me married!”
The week before her wedding Cathy told me that she was determined to enjoy every minute of her wedding day. She reasoned, “If something happens then it’s beyond my control and I’ll just have to let it go. Besides, I have you and Annette (event planner) to take care of it!”
Another bride, Lucy, told me that she had recently attended a ceremony where anything that could go wrong did go wrong. I cringed when I heard that but she reassured me that the couple didn’t mind because it was all so perfectly imperfect that it made for a great and funny story.
Why is there such a difference between these brides and grooms? Well, I’m not sure why! But I can tell you that as an officiant it is unsettling and sad to witness people feeling miserable on what should be a beyond-the-beyond joyful day.
Having just wrote that I don’t know why there’s a difference, I’ll now say that I think the difference actually goes back to what I’ve said so many times before. . .if you’re focusing on having the “perfect” day, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Perfection, as you understand it in your head, simply doesn’t exist. However, if you’re focused on creating a “magical” day, then that “magic” will be perfect.
Sure, things can go wrong – and I’ve seen things go wrong – but I’ve never seen anything go so wrong that it ruined the joy of the day UNLESS the couple chose to have what went wrong ruin the joy of their day.
So, what can you do to make sure that your nerves do not ruin the fun and sweetness of your wedding day? Consider these tips:
· List what needs to happen for your joy to be diminished. You and your partner could make separate lists and then compare. Explore why what you’ve written could diminish your joy. If your worst fear comes true, strategize what you and your partner can do to protect each other and your celebration.
· Embrace the phrase, “We’ll roll with it because it’s not a joy killer.” You can handle whatever happens. Really!
· Is prayer, meditation or yoga something that helps to center and ground you? If so, then put it that practice on your daily schedule in the weeks leading up to your wedding – and remain faithful to that schedule!
· What do you and your partner want people to remember about your wedding? What can you do to ensure that’s what they will remember?
Remember – your wedding day is the most important PUBLIC day of your life, but it really isn’t THE most important. The day your child is born will be more important. The day you comfort your partner after they’ve received shattering health news, that will be a more important day.
Your wedding day gives thanks for the past, celebrates the present and blesses the future. Therefore misery on your wedding day is a choice. Why choose misery over joy?