How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Chances Are – You Don't Know What It Is You're Vowing!

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.
C.S. Lewis
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.
Leo Tolstoy

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.
Lao Tzu

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

12 Often Overlooked Things To Look For When Selecting A Venue

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

Why Be Miserable On Your Wedding Day?

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?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A "Different" Kind Of Reading!

I recently officiated a wedding and the couple selected a reading I had never heard before!  It’s definitely “different” – but, I really liked it and their families and friends roared with laughter as the groom’s brother read it with feeling and gusto. . .

From The Sandman Vol. 9 "The Kindly Ones"
by Neil Gaiman:

"Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable.

It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.

You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life … You give them a piece of you.

They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore.

Love takes hostages. It gets inside you."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

6 Quotes To Inspire and Challenge You As You Write Your Vows!

Last month I officiated the memorial of Ed, the father of my friend, Clarice.  He and Clarice’s mom, Midge, had been married for more than fifty years.  I know that this is a wedding blog and not a funeral blog BUT since the memorial I’ve become more sensitized to the vows, “in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” 

A wedding naturally looks to the Future, yet maybe one’s vows will only fully be understood at the end of one’s life.  In prepping for the memorial, I rummaged around various quotes I’ve collected over time that are funeral appropriate (I’m not morbid – it’s just that I’ve done a fair number of funerals/memorials over the years).  In looking over some of these quotes, I realize that they actually could help in the writing of vows. . . hmm. . . hope this doesn’t sound creepy!

Here are 6 quotes to help you reflect on just what it is you and your partner are vowing to each other:

1.  You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die.  Or when. 
You can only decide how you’re going to live.  Now.
Joan Baez

How do you and your partner want to live?  Have you talked about the particulars and the dreams?  Have you figured out a strategy to make your wants and desires and dreams help you live – and not just exist?

2.  Still – in a way – nobody sees a flower – really.  It is so small –
we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
Georgia O’Keeffe

Have you and your partner founds ways to make time for and with each other?  Do you “see” each other in those times or do you feel taken for granted?

3.  What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for others?
George Eliot

How do you make life less difficult for your partner?  How does your partner make life less difficult for you?

4.  It costs so much to be fully human that there are very few who have the enlightenment or the courage to pay the price.  One has to abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms open.  One has to embrace the world like a lover.  One has to accept pain as a condition of existence.  One has to count doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing.  One needs a will stubborn in conflict but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.
Shoes Of The Fisherman
Morris West

Are you and your partner committed to becoming “fully human”?  How do you give each other the courage?

These next two quotes mention “God” – but even if you are not a believer, I think they can challenge you in your commitment to each other. . .

5.  When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say,
"I used everything you gave me.”
Erma Bombeck

How do you help your partner develop and us their talents?  How does your partner help you develop and use your talents?

6.  When we die and go to heaven, and we meet our Maker, our Maker is not going to say to us, “Why didn’t you become a messiah?”  Why didn’t you discover the cure for such and such?”  The only thing we’re going to be asked at that precious moment is, “why didn’t you become ‘you’?”
Eli Wiesel

What does it mean for “you” to become “you”?  For your partner to become him or her self?  How can you help each other in that great, ultimate undertaking?

Monday, April 25, 2016

What We Can Learn From A Crashing Chandelier!

Last week something happened before a ceremony start that I’d never seen before – and I’ve seen a lot!

It was a blustery afternoon at Pelican Hill Resort as the floral designer’s team was setting up.  A glistening crystal chandelier hung from the center of the rotunda, site of the ceremony.  I was reviewing last minute details with the event planner, JeannieSavage, when, without warning, the chandelier crashed to the ground.  It was one of those surreal moments when your brain can’t compute what your eye has witnessed.

Jeannie snapped to and asked if everyone was okay.  They were and she exhaled, “Thank God no one was hurt!”  I marveled at her composure.  She turned to the head of the team and asked him to call the floral designer while she called the resort’s catering director.  Within minutes, the destroyed chandelier was being swept up.

Jeannie suggested we not tell the bride until after the ceremony and she decided there was no time to attempt to replace the chandelier.  She was in charge, calm and, yes, we did manage a “what the?” laugh.  Throughout this bizarre incident, her attitude was a reassuring, “I’ll handle it.  We’ll handle it.”  And so everyone went about doing what needed to be done.

What I found utterly remarkable was that in a dramatic moment, there was no drama.  Now that’s leadership!  

Later, when I told Jeannie how impressed I was by how she handled the situation, she was puzzled, “How else could I have responded?”  I laughed because she could have responded in so many other ways.  She could have yelled, demanding to know who screwed up; she could have debated whether to tell the bride and stir-up emotions by asking for everyone’s opinion; or she could have played the victim, lamenting, “What am I going to do?”

Jeannie reminded me what’s needed in a moment of crisis:
·      She stayed focused on her goal – having a beautiful ceremony for the couple – and she let nothing distract her. 
·      She didn’t lose confidence in herself simply because something outside her control happened. 
·      She trusted and relied on her team. 
·      She was able to laugh. 
·      She was not fixated on the original plan – and so she could improvise. 

These skills are crucial not only for leaders.  They’re crucial for our own well-being and success in any crisis.

Jeannie’s company is named “Details, Details” and it’s precisely because she values details that she didn’t lose sight of the big picture – the welfare of her team, the happiness of her couple and her own sanity.

Chandeliers come crashing down in all our lives – it’s how we handle the broken shards that make all the difference.

Note: couple in photo is not couple referenced in this post – photo is what rotunda looks like with a chandelier!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Are You Cruel When You Argue?

When not officiating weddings, among other things, I teach at UCLA Extension.  Last month I finished up my eleven-week course, The Dynamics Of Interpersonal Communication. 

All of my communication work (including my pre-marital communication coaching) is based in the belief that we all do what we do and say what we say for a reason.  No one “just is”.  Flowing from that is my conviction that in every relationship, over time, we fall into dance steps, patterns for dealing with conflict as well as for expressing feelings, needs and desires.  The question, though, becomes – are those dance steps working for you or are they sabotaging you and your partner?

Earlier today I got an email from Pamela, one of my students.  She wrote:

Recently my boyfriend and I have really been working on our communication. For perhaps the very first time I noticed that when I'm upset and need to ask him something, I get very frustrated and then just explode into accusatory statements instead of explaining what I want or what I’m feeling.

Usually that sets off our “normal” fight of  “YOU never. . .well, YOU never. . .” but this time I stopped and told him, “Look, I have a lot of trouble with this so can you please hug me and work with me instead of reacting to me?”

And he actually did! 

It was an interesting moment for both of us.  He said to me, “Well, I never knew that. I thought you were just cruelly accusing me, doing your usual annoying girlfriend thing.”

We talked about ways I can bring up issues without waiting too long and then exploding.   And now he’s being less reactive to my tone and more understanding when I repeat something three times in a row – he gets that it’s because I'm having difficulty expressing my self and am caught in a “broken record mode”.

Now when I do that (which I did this morning), he just pretends to be a broken record too and we make it a joke between us.

I’m excited for Pamela and her boyfriend because of the good that has come about from their mutual kindness and determination to break a habit that chipped away at the quality of their life together.

Pamela’s boyfriend thought her lashing out was just a “girlfriend thing”.  It wasn’t.  However, it wasn’t until she came clean and actually asked him for what she needed that he was able to really understand what was going on.

This was a breakthrough moment in their relationship.  And, hey, never underestimate the power of a good hug!

Pamela reminds us all that life really can be far simpler than we make it out to be!