How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tips On How To Save Time While Planning Your Wedding

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

A Wedding Blessing – non-conventional!

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

So You Want To Write Your Own Vows. . .

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.
The Yueh-Fu

true story
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

Never Love Someone Who Treats You As Ordinary

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. . .

Dear Dad,
. . .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!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Every Day Can Be An April Fool's Day

Okay, so this post is not exactly related to weddings BUT it’s April Fool’s Day and this is the best I can come up with. . .Enjoy!

I recently met with Brad and Nikki (names changed) who are getting married later this year.  Their story begins in the most ordinary of ways – they met in high school and quickly became sweethearts.  After graduation they each went to a different college and though they tried to keep the relationship intact, distance and time broke them up.

The years passed and they lost touch with each other.  They each went on to marry and eventually divorce.  And here is where life gets incredible.  One day two years ago, Brad was driving in Santa Monica.  He slammed on the brakes for a red light.  He happened to look to his right and glanced on the back of a woman entering a Staples.  He thought couldn’t shake the feeling she was Nikki.  He parked the car and went racing through Staples.  And, yes, it was Nikki!  They hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in over ten years.  Soon, though, they were back where they had left off and today are planning their wedding.

I was moved by their story. . .what if the light had not turned red?  What if Brad had not looked to the right?  What if Nikki had gone to Office Depot and not Staples?!  All the what ifs. . .

Two weeks ago I finished teaching a course at UCLA.  Every Tuesday night for eleven weeks I’d stand in the hallway outside my classroom before class started.  Anyone who wanted could confer with me.  And every Tuesday night a young man would walk by me on his way to another class.  I noticed him because he always wore a suit and carried a large backpack that appeared to be heavily crammed with who knows what.  I always wondered what could be in that large backpack.

Last week I was in the B of A building downtown on my way to meet with a client.  Ahead of me on the elevator was a guy with a large backpack that made me think of the UCLA guy.  When he turned around, I was stunned to see that it was the same guy!

I kept walking by because hey, what was I going to say?  But again. . .how odd. . .what are the chances of that happening?  And, yes, I later bought a lottery ticket since I was feeling “lucky.”  And, no, I didn’t even win a buck!

In last week’s Huffington Post, an item ran about New Jersey couple Jourdan and Ryan Spencer who met on a blind date in 2004 – BUT they actually crossed paths more than a decade before.

Jourdan’s parents have video of her when she was ten at the Sesame Place amusement park in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.  At one point in the video, Ryan, then thirteen years old and an utter stranger, walks into the frame.  He was there with his family!

So, what does all of this have to do with weddings?  Hmm. . .I’m actually not sure. . . BUT, what better time than April Fool’s Day to reflect on just how weird life can get?!  And in a way, isn’t that part of what your vows are all about – that together you’ll revel in all of life’s weirdness together?!

Shakespeare said, “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” 


But it’s poet Mary Oliver who writes, “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” 

Somehow, that’s worthy advice for an April Fool’s Day!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A QUIZZ To Help You See Clearly During The Craziness Of Planning

It’s easy to get lost in your “own” world while planning your wedding. And in that world, often times, things can get distorted, much like those weird mirrors in a fun house. Here are Ten Questions to get you thinking about the “mirrors” in your world:

1.     Do you think that if your partner does something that upsets you, it’s because he or she deliberately wants to hurt you?
2.     Do you see how and where you can be wrong in a discussion?
3.     In a discussion, do you look for ways to disprove what the person is saying?
4.     Are you familiar with your partner’s culture, family, religion?
5.     Do you think the world revolves around you? (okay—loaded question!)
6.     Do you often use the phrase, “I know how you feel?”
7.     If there’s a 50% chance of rain, do you think it’s going to rain?
8.     Do you believe that every problem has a solution?
9.     Do you often use the phrase, “What’s the use?”
10.  Are you able to see the wedding planning from your partner’s p.o.v.?

If you answered, “yes” to any of the odd-numbered questions, and “no” to any of the even-numbered ones, then most likely you will feel frustratingly challenged as you deal with the foreseen and unforeseen issues that unexpectedly pop up during planning!

Years ago my brother found a neon clock from “Alexander’s,” a NYC department store that went out of business decades ago. It was our grandmother’s favorite store. Peter gave it to me as a Christmas gift.

I hung it in my dining room, lower to the floor. The placement gave it that “artsy” feel. A few months later, the neon burnt out and I took it to a repair shop. A couple of weeks went by and I got a call from the owner. He had set the clock against the wall and his toddler son came along and dropped a toy car on top of it.

The plastic rim now had a hole in it. It couldn’t be repaired. When I brought it home, it didn’t look good in its old spot as the hole was glaring. Irritated that it was ruined, I stored it in a closet—until a friend suggested I place it high up on the wall, so no one could see the hole. So simple.

Why hadn’t I thought of moving the clock from a very low to a very high spot? Because I was so fixated on the old spot and on its imperfection.  And I think this is the biggest challenge while planning a wedding—to look up when you’re fixated on looking down!

Here are five simple things you can do to look “higher.”

A.   You made the choice to hold a wedding celebration out a place of joy, celebration, and gratitude. Each week remind each other of the “why” of that choice.

B.    Giving up on a problem or challenge that is crimping your wedding planning obviously will solve nothing. Select a problem that you’re obsessing over. Can you look at it from another angle? Think of it as a mystery to be cracked open and not as an insurmountable obstacle.

C.    There’s more to life than planning a wedding. Make time to enjoy what you enjoy doing—individually and as a couple. Spending time on non-wedding fun will help clear your head and refresh you when you return to dealing with wedding issues.

D.   Make time to offer thanks to all the good things and to all the good people that uplift and support you in the planning. Gratitude puts everything into right perspective.

E.    Most especially, thank your partner for all things, large and small, that he or she does to make the planning less stressful and more fun for you. Tell your partner what you specifically appreciate.

It’s soooo easy to get lost in our heads, create soap operas and lose sight of what life (i.e. wedding planning) is all about.

However. . .

Staying sane is worth the effort!

Monday, March 23, 2015

What To Do When Parents Unintentionally Complicate Wedding Planning

When not officiating weddings, I’m a corporate communications coach and trainer (  In addition, I teach business and cross-cultural communication courses at UCLA Extension.  Last week my eleven-week course on interpersonal communication wrapped-up.  Rose (name changed) wasn’t able to make the last class and here’s an excerpt from the email she sent me. . .and, YES, all of this does have something to do with wedding planning – trust me – read on!

I’m so sorry that I missed last night’s last class. I was in the car on the way there and ended up having a tough conversation with my parents about wedding planning - the source of many of our family’s conversations these days.
We ended up talking on the phone for 2 hours and it was such an important, necessary conversation for us to have that I made the tough call to continue on and miss the class. . .
The most important thing I’ve gained from the course is the idea of the “family motto”. This is why I skipped the class last night: My family and my fiance’s family have completely different family mottos and it’s been clouding the way that everyone communicates with each other.

My family motto is “wear your heart on your sleeve” and his is “keep your cards close to your chest”. Our parents have been having so many misunderstandings and disagreements lately and it’s all a result of them not understanding where the other ones are coming from.
My parents are transparent and want everyone to share their feelings during our meetings and discussions and his parents just don’t operate that way. This has resulted in my fiance and I putting ourselves in the middle, which has turned into a giant game of telephone, which we ended last night.
After asking our parents to talk directly to each other, we had conversations with each set of parents and it became clear that our mottos are in conflict.
And it was because of what I learned in your class that I feel that I was able to take control of the conversation and get everyone to realize that we’re all operating towards the same goal but we’re getting there different ways. Our best course is to understand that about each other and accept each other for who we are.
Thank you for giving me the tools and confidence to do so.
So what is this “family motto” thing that Rose referred to?  Well, let me tell you a. . .
true story
When Paulann and Darius (names changed) hired me they’d not yet chosen a venue. He had a large family and wanted a place where they could invite everyone “plus one.” She had a small immediate and extended family and didn’t care where they got married. 

As the weeks passed, they still hadn’t found the right place and were bickering to a degree that surprised each of them. She nixed every venue he liked and he began to wonder if she even wanted to get married.

When we got together it was clear that they were working from different visions of their day, guided by what I call family mottos.

Our family’s beliefs and rituals are like the air we breathe. Every family lives life guided by a motto, a mantra. Sometimes it is spoken aloud; other times it is implicitly understood. But no matter, this motto guides a family as it navigates through life.

When I was growing up, my family’s motto was – “trust no one”. My father was a cop. His job demanded that he be leery of all. And as is often the case, his work flowed into his home.  I breathed in that mantra without thought or doubt. Later in life I had to work hard to overcome its limitations and to trust people.

When growing up, Darius’ home was where all the neighborhood kids wanted to hang out. His mother loved to cook. His family made a good fuss over holidays and birthdays. “The more the merrier!” was their motto.

Paulann’s family was close-knit and very private. Few of her friends were ever invited for dinner. Holidays and birthdays were celebrated in a low-key way. By ten o’clock the dishes were done and everyone was heading to bed. “Proper and Private” were the guiding words in her family’s life.

Darius saw their wedding as the celebration of all celebrations. Paulann didn’t want to share her day with so many people. What to do? Talk. They had to talk openly and trustingly. They had to have some hard conversations, revealing feelings that surprised each of them.

Once they were able to see things from each other’s perspective, they were able to go about making honest decisions that honored them both. They were able to begin to create a new family motto—one that was their very own.

Sanity Saver Questions:
·      How were you taught to see life? What is your family’s motto regarding life?
·      How was your fiancé taught to see life? What is your fiancé’s family’s motto?
·      How do those assumptions about life influence you in your life together? As you plan your wedding?

Without understanding your family’s and your partner’s family’s assumptions about how life is lived, you will be setting yourself up in subtle ways for the stress of misunderstanding.

Remember: the challenge, the responsibility and the excitement of creating a life together involves embracing a new motto of life. If your family’s motto limits you and your partner, then respectfully work around it or put it to the side. Choose a new motto – the motto that will guide you and your partner.