Monday, February 8, 2016
Maggie Sims. Do you recognize that name? No, it’s not the name of one of my brides. It’s the name of the woman of my dreams. Seriously.
I’m going to tell you a story that is so odd that I’ve wrestled with whether I should even share it in any kind of public arena. I’ve decided, though, that it is too weird not to share! And, yes, somehow it is connected to weddings. . .
For Christmas my niece Mary gave me a wool ski cap from Canadian-based sportswear company ROOTS. I don’t ski but she knows I like hats. One night last week it got really cold here in the Valley and I decided to sleep wearing the cap. That tidbit is not the embarrassing part of this story!
I typically go into a deep sleep and have dreams that play out like movies. I don’t actually recall my ROOTS-capped dream except that I woke up remembering that there was a woman in my dream named “Maggie Sims.” Odd as I don’t know anyone with that name – I don’t even know a Maggie.
In the days following, I wondered what could be significant about “Maggie Sims.” Finally, I decided to check if there was a Maggie Sims on LinkedIn. Yeah, this is the part where things get really weird!
I typed in her name and a bunch of “Maggie Sims” popped up – the first Maggie, though, lives in Texas and is a marketing director. . .for ROOTS sportswear! WHAT THE???
I get a ROOTS ski cap as a gift. I sleep with the cap. I dream about Maggie Sims. Maggie works for ROOTS – in the non-dream world. What can I say? I have been in awe of the “coincidence” / synchronicity of it all.
So what does it all mean? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that I’ve been reminded just how easy it is to take the wonder of life for granted. I want order and predictability. I want apps that will give organization to my day. I want food that’s fast. I want knowledge and connection and gratification that are at my fingertips tapping on a smart phone or tablet. And all of that is beyond great. It’s phenomenal really, especially when you know that an olive green princess wall phone and an IBM Selectrix typewriter were the height of my teenaged high-tech world!
Maggie Sims, though, reminds me that there is so much more to life.
In his play, “Small Craft Warnings,” Tennessee Williams has one of the characters ask this question, “What is the one thing you must not lose sight of in this world before leaving it? Surprise. The capacity for surprise.”
Life is full of shocks that can knock us about. Surprise, though, is something else. It’s what gives life moments of refreshment and healing. Surprise can remind us that although life is whacky, it summons us to put forth whatever good we have in us.
If I were a songwriter, I’d probably write a ditty about Maggie Sims, but I’m not. Instead, I’m going to let her challenge me – challenge me to renew my respect for the mystery of life and people.
I’m resolved to renew my commitment to being curious, to letting go and to being grateful.
Okay, that last sentence really sounds nice, if I do say so, but it masks my frustration. You see, I want Maggie Sims to hold some lesson for me, some insight that I then can pass on to you, but, I don’t think there is any lesson connected to the dream.
Have I done anything differently since my ROOTS-inspired dream? Not really. Should I have? I don’t know.
What I do know is that I don’t want to live in a numbed state. I want to live a life that is as vibrant as my dreams. And maybe that’s Maggie’s gift – a call to renewal.
And so, why have I shared this odd story with YOU, who are in the throes of planning your “dream” wedding? Because. . .
Because I am convinced that at the heart of the vows you offer to your partner and that your partner offers to you is the commitment that together you will never take the mystery of your love nor the mystery of your life together for granted.
Your vow is your promise to always strive to live in the awe of it all!
May all your dreams come true. . .
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Brad called me the day before his wedding in a panic: “How do I write my vows?” I was surprised because Brad’s a violinist and often plays at weddings, so he’s heard numerous 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, “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 or not do in his marriage. His vow is but an echo of what is deep within his heart.
Brad and his fiancée, Mary, had been high school sweethearts and dated throughout college. She, too, was a musician. At their ceremony, Brad made his vow first. Mary’s eyes were glistening as he spoke movingly “from his heart.” When Mary went to speak, she was so overwhelmed 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 it tightly throughout her vows.
Over the last twenty years, I’ve officiated more than one thousand ceremonies and while I’ve not seen it all or heard it all, too often 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!
I’m not sure I 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. While I can’t tell you exactly how to write your own vows, I can help you focus on your love and life together, and, in so doing, find the words that echo what’s in your heart.
I invite you to slow down, mindfully create time and retreat into your heart as you consider what you’re promising to your partner in this crazy world of ours.
What follows are fifteen of my favorite quotes about love, companionship and marriage. After each quote, I pose questions to get you thinking about the particulars of your love and commitment. Let your answers to these quotes inspire and guide you as you go about writing your personal vows!
15 Quotes To Cheer And Inspire You
1. To love someone is to hope in them always.
· What are your hopes for your partner? For your own self?
· What are your hopes for your life together?
2. Make yourself necessary to someone.
· How is your partner necessary to your life and well-being?
· Is your partner your life OR does your partner give you life?
3. To love someone deeply gives you strength.
Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.
· How has loving your partner given you strength and courage?
· What have you been able to do with that strength and courage?
4. Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get, only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.
· What does it mean for you to give “everything” in your marriage?
· Is there something you’re not willing to give your partner?
5. You have made a place in my heart where I thought there was no room for anything else. You have made flowers grow where I cultivated dust and stones.
· What has your partner brought into your heart and life that you thought was never possible?
· How have you brought healing to your partner’s heart?
6. We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.
· How are you weird? How is your partner weird?
· What do you enjoy about your shared weirdness?!
7. The first duty of love is to listen.
· What do you enjoy about listening to your partner?
· What has listening to your partner taught you about yourself?
8. Never love anyone who treats you as ordinary.
· How does your partner treat you as extra-ordinary?
· How do you treat your partner as extra-ordinary?
9. Two people fall in love, and decide to see if their love might stand up over time, if there might be enough grace and forgiveness and memory lapses to help the whole shebang hang together.
· Have you and your partner been able to forgive each other?
· How important is the notion of “forgiveness” in your life together?
10. For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.
· What is something your partner has told you about yourself that no one else has ever said?
· What have you told your partner about him or her self that no one else has ever said?
11. My whole life changed when I decided not just what I’d like to do, but when I decided who I was committed to being and having in my life.
· How does your partner help you be who you want to be?
· Who and what has your partner introduced you to that has broadened your world?
12. Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
· What is a moment you shared with your partner that “took your breath away”?
· What do you hope never to forget about the experience?
13. Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone—we find it in another. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. The one who loves is more alive and more real than when they did not love.
· What has your partner helped you discover about yourself that you had not known before?
· What have you helped your partner discover about himself, herself, that they did not know before?
14. When we talked, I felt brilliant, fascinating; she brought out the version of myself I like most.
· How does your partner make you feel “brilliant” and “fascinating”?
· What version of yourself does your partner help to bring out of you?
15. The best way to know life is to love many things.
· What things do you love now that you didn’t when your partner was not in your life?
· What is the greatest thing about love that your partner has helped you learn?
Monday, November 23, 2015
Thanksgiving. I’m sitting at a long table, filled with deep-down good people. Anthony & Melissa have gathered us into their home. Across from me is a beautiful Indian woman. She has a disarming smile and a hearty laugh. She turns those clichés into something real.
She asks me what I do and when I say that I’m a wedding officiant, she becomes excited and asks: “What do you think is needed to make a marriage a success?” I hesitate because I sense her question comes from a place of disappointment.
So, I tell her: “listening.” It’s both a true and safe answer. Although I believe this is the key communication skill, somehow, when I give her this answer, it doesn’t seem adequate.
I glance at Anthony & Melissa. I flash on other couples who nourish me and I wonder—what makes each of their marriages a “success?” These couples constantly support each other, but that, too, seems like a worn-out answer.
And then I flash on a moment Anthony & Melissa shared earlier. They’d just finished setting-up this Tuscany-like family style table. I came into the garden and glimpsed them in a warm, hugging embrace.
Exhausted from the preparations, they simply fell into each other’s arms—and smiled. It was not so much a sexual embrace as it was intimately confirming that: We did it.
My grandmother once told me that real love is not those champagne moments filled with fireworks. Rather, real love is a reassuring whisper in the dark of night. And that is what I witnessed in the garden—the intimacy of a reassuring whisper. This is our feast. In our home. Built on all the moments you helped me and frustrated me. Built on all your surprises that both delighted me and puzzled me. This night is our gift to these wonderful and wacky people, who, for better or for worse, are a part of our home.
As I looked down the table, with all its mismatched chairs and mismatched guests, I thought: if we can’t give thanks for this moment, what can we give thanks for?
And then, the woman again asked me, “Is that all that’s needed for a successful marriage—listening to the other?”
I look around the garden and think—no, listening is not enough. Rather, here, this table, this is what makes for a “successful marriage.” This table is the gift of two people dedicated and pledged to creating a life—a life-giving life—that rises above the rituals of their individual pasts. Pasts filled with dysfunctions and secrets and questions. A dedication that lets this day swirl with good, hearty questions: “Do you have enough? Do you need more? Eat up. Don’t be shy. Are you sure you’ve had enough?” Questions asked while serving and laughing.
What makes for a successful marriage? In that moment, as I flash on my family of couples, I’m reminded that it is the generosity with which two people juggle the hundreds of little things that go into the routine of daily life. For it’s the sum total of those tasks and interactions that allow my coupled friends to make their home in each other, and there to find comfort and safety in the reassuring hospitality of each other.
As the table is cleared by all of us who want Melissa & Anthony to relax I remember the movie, Babette’s Feast. It’s the story of two pious sisters living in a stark and dreary Denmark of the 19th century. When their young maid wins 10,000 francs in a lottery, she puts on a French feast. The sisters invite their elderly friends, each of whom is resistant to the overwhelming smells and tastes. And at the very end of the evening, the General, a former suitor of one sister declares, “I now know in this beautiful world of ours, all things are possible.”
I look around and wonder—are all things possible? Tomorrow we wake with our familiar demons. Melissa & Anthony return to the routine of kids, pets, and work. But this meal reminds us of what is possible. And without each other, this feast would not have been possible. No table. No food. No nourishment. Not like this. Not here. Not with these people.
Is it too little to say that here—in this night of reassuring whispers—here can be found the answer for what makes a marriage successful?
Your wedding is like this Thanksgiving meal and its “perfection” comes not merely from all going “smoothly.” No, it comes from all your guests leaving feeling nourished. Feeling full from the reminder that life is good and worthy of all that is good and true within us.
You take each other as husband & wife and in that taking you give to family and friends a “loud,” reassuring whisper that all is possible, as you urge them on––eat, have more, don’t be shy! In the doing of this you become an “I.” And in the becoming of an “I” you are able to do the giving of your “I Do.”
Your “I Do”
celebrates your commitment to being a generous person.
celebrates your commitment to being a generous person.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Last Saturday I officiated the wedding of Stephen & Monique, a couple who are friends of Steve & Katie, a couple whose wedding I officiated last year. Stephen had been one of Steve’s groomsmen and now Steve was one of Stephen’s. In fact, Stephen’s other three groomsmen had been groomsmen for Steve, as all the guys had been in the same fraternity at LMU.
I wanted to make sure that at Stephen and Monique’s ceremony I didn’t say any of what I had said at Steve and Katie’s wedding. But not only could Stephen and Monique not remember what I had said, not even the groomsmen could remember!
Each reassured me that although they couldn’t remember my words, they’d been touched by the ceremony and my sentiments.
After the ceremony, I asked Katie, last year’s bride, if I had repeated what I’d said at her wedding. She laughed as she, too, couldn’t remember what I had said. All she knew was that she felt as refreshed at this wedding as she had at her own.
When I coach professionals in public speaking, I remind them that all sorts of studies confirm that after a presentation people forget 50% of what they heard by the time they get home and they will forget 50% of the 50% by the next day. I stress that before giving a presentation, a speaker needs to know what it is they want their audience to remember.
A wedding is a unique type of presenting and this weekend I was reminded of what I sometimes lose sight of – family and friends will not remember my exact words, but they will remember the feeling and tone I create – they will remember the experience I create.
I recently met with a couple who are getting married next year. When I asked them if they know what they want or don’t want in their ceremony, they told me about a boring wedding they’d attended. While they couldn’t remember what the officiant had said, they remembered how the ceremony had a disjointed feel about it, how nothing that was being done or even said made sense. They felt like they were simply observers, onlookers at an odd event.
Another couple I recently met with originally were going to marry last year but with less than a month to go they called it off. They’re now at a place where they know they are necessary in each other’s life and are ready to marry in a way they were not the first time. To my surprise, they told me that they couldn’t stand the officiant they had hired, but they didn’t care as he was cheap and that was their priority.
The bride shared that now the ceremony is the most important part of their wedding day, but she doesn’t want to be the center of attention and she doesn’t want the ceremony to be long. She does, though, want it to be meaningful.
So what is this “thing” we know as a wedding ceremony?
Strip away the clichés, religious and civil, strip away the pomp and circumstance, and what you’re left with is – an exquisite moment in time.
A ceremony is the acknowledging and affirming and blessing the simple and lovely miracle of these two persons, alive on earth at the same moment, pledging to live all the remaining moments of life together.
Despite its power, or maybe because of its power, a ceremony is a fragile experience. It’s not a vehicle for lecturing or venting, rather, it’s a moment in time in which everyone present does something out of the ordinary – they give thanks for the brave generosity of two people.
Maybe it’s because it is so simple that a ceremony is so tricky to execute.
Last month, October, I officiated eleven weddings that together had over one thousand guests. Given the opportunity to speak to a thousand people was a privilege I cherish. But, now, I wonder about all those wedding guests. What will they remember of the ceremony? What do I want them to remember?
While I’ll never know what they remember, here’s what I hope they will remember:
· That they were part of an invited group who witnessed something extraordinary – the pledging of love between two people – love faithful, protective and sturdy.
· That despite the fact that life can be exhausting – life is good and worthy of our best – and because they joined in the feast, they will continue to live life and not slog through it.
· That we need one another – whoever that “another” may be, so that we can live with generosity and courage.
Maybe, though, all I need them to remember, all I want them to remember, is this –
that they experienced a moment where they felt valued and appreciated because they valued and appreciated a couple who said “yes” to life in all its messy, uncertain glory.