How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.

The great acts of love are done by those
who are habitually performing small acts of kindness.

We pardon to the extent that we love.

Love is knowing that even when you are alone,
you will never be lonely again.

And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.

Loved for ourselves.

And even loved in spite of ourselves.

~ Victor Hugo ~

Monday, February 9, 2015

FREE Book Give-Away - Really - Free!

February is National Weddings Month.  Not sure why – perhaps because Valentine’s Day is “the” day for proposals!   And so with a nod to the holiday, here’s a story in honor of all things wedding.

I was at a Starbucks when I bumped into Meredith (names changed), a bride whose wedding I officiated four years ago. Everything that could have gone wrong with her wedding did.

The florist mixed up the flowers for her bouquet. The musicians were late. The shuttle van from the hotel broke down and guests were stranded for half an hour. Shortly before the ceremony, the zipper on her dress broke. The ceremony was delayed more than an hour.

Through it all she remained calm, not once getting angry. I was in awe and now, finally, I could ask how she did it. Meredith said, “It was the happiest day of our life and Patrick (groom) and I decided we wouldn’t let anything ruin our joy.”

The months leading up to the wedding were stressful beginning with her dad pressuring them to get married in the Catholic Church. Since she and Patrick aren’t regular churchgoers, she thought it’d be hypocritical.  Her mother insisted that she didn’t want anything to do with her ex-husband’s third wife and didn’t want the woman sitting in the front row even though Meredith’s dad was paying for the wedding,

At our last meeting before the wedding, when I asked how they were doing, Patrick said: “Well, we’re learning to say ‘I’m sorry’ to each other a lot faster than we used to.”

We laughed, BUT he did speak to an important issue—communication.  It’s because they had a clear vision of their wedding, grounded in months of honest conversation, that no mishap, however surprising or annoying, was able to ruin the magic of their dream day.

Over the years I’ve seen the startling difference between couples who communicate with trust and confidence and those who are stuck in a rut of complaining and accusing. The former celebrate their wedding day with sparkling eyes while the later struggle just to survive the day.

To help all couples who might not yet have Meredith’s and Patrick’s vision and skill, I wrote an e-book:

The heart of this book is my belief that the quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of the communication in your life.

This book offers you tips, tricks, and techniques for communicating in ways that will help you:
·      Resist pressure from family and friends so you make decisions that honor and reflect you and your partner.
·      Express your emotions without saddling guilt trips on each other.
·      Argue fairly so you don’t drive each other crazy.
·      Listen so you can both be on the same page.
·      Sit down and talk about the issues you’ve been avoiding.
·      Look at challenges from each other’s P.O.V. so you can solve seemingly unsolvable problems.

In each chapter I ask Sanity Saver questions to help you and your partner become aware of your communication strengths and blind spots—individually and as a couple. Sanity Saver quizzes and activities will also help you and your partner learn how to play off each other’s strengths and minimize weaknesses.

Threaded throughout are my reflections and insights on the sweetness and wackiness of weddings, along with the everyday heroics of marriage.

In honor of National Weddings Month, you can download a free copy (from the 9th through the 13th) of the book by simply Clicking Here

Each time you turn to this book I hope you find a chapter that makes you smile in recognition, sigh with relief and assure you that you and your partner can protect each other from the nightmares of wedding planning so as together keep your “I” in your “I Do!”


Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Gift For Your 25th Wedding Anniversary – Huh?!

Okay, so I know that you’re busy planning your wedding – and not your anniversary party!  You might even feel like you’re losing your mind in the midst of all this planning madness. . .

However, I’d like to suggest a gift you can offer to each other, the day of your wedding.

Before your wedding day write a letter to each other, in which you describe what you hope your life will look like when you celebrate your 25th wedding anniversary.

Place these letters in a keepsake box––or even in your safe deposit box!

Every year write a letter to each other on your anniversary, describing what the previous year has been like for you and what you hope for the coming year.

Add the letters to the box.

Don’t read the letters until your 25th anniversary.

Okay, so maybe you don’t want to wait that long! But wait until your 5th or 10th, or read them during a time when you each need to remember your dreams and hopes for each other.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Best Quote Of the Year!

Last weekend, I officiated a wedding.  We were five minutes from “show time” and the event planner had sequestered me with the groom and his groomsmen.

At one point Pete, the groom, turned to me and with some exasperation said, “This is stupid! Why am I a mess?”

I laughed.  The groomsmen laughed.  Pete kinda laughed.

It’s probably one of the best questions I’ll hear all year!

So, why was Pete a mess?  While I can’t say for certain, I think it has to do with what the writer Madeleine L’Engle claimed:

“But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take.  Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that,
together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take

No wonder Pete was a mess!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Goodness Of Everyday Life

As you know, some weeks are more interesting than others – and for me, the week beginning on the 18th  was one of those weeks. . .

On Sunday, I did a baby blessing for Don and Leslie (all names changed).  I officiated their wedding seven years ago. They both had been raised Catholic but are not regular church goers and so they didn’t want a formal baptism.  Their Catholic roots, though, tugged at them – they wanted to do something to welcome and celebrate little Brett’s arrival in this world, in their family.

And so we had a blessing with family and close friends – people I first met seven years ago on another day of blessing.  It was all so simple and so poignant.  Leslie read a quote I had used at their wedding:

“A wise woman of old once wrote that, ‘It is the quality of life that matters most.  The taste of the food on the table; the light in the room; the peace and wholeness of the moment.  Perfect love casts out fear and the only perfect form of love found on earth is the wordless commitment of family.’”

Into such a world we welcomed Brett.

On Tuesday I was on line at a Starbucks in Glendale.  I was checking email when a man tapped me on the shoulder.  He was smiling, “JP, you probably don’t remember me, but I’m Fred and you married me and my wife Rosanna almost ten years ago.”  I did remember them and I was so happy to reunite.  Fred went on, “We still smile when we think on our ceremony and I just want you to know that I’m probably more in love with Rosanna than I’ve ever been.”

Starbucks was never so good. . .

On Thursday afternoon I went to the Pasadena home of Mark and Terry.  They’re both at an age when AARP regularly sends them materials and because they’ve been together many years they’ve decided it’s time to marry and legally protect their life together.  BUT, they really do want a big wedding celebration – later in the year, though.  And so they decided to have a “secret wedding” with just two close friends.  It was held in Terry’s home, which had belonged to her grandmother.

Warm.  Cozy.  Intimate.  It was a lovely way to spend a weekday afternoon!

And then on Saturday I was off to Orange County to officiate the wedding of RJ and Alice, who were more than half the age of Mark and Terry.  Over 200 friends and family came to cheer them on in their commitment.

Maybe it’s because their wedding culminated for me a week of special moments, I found myself especially moved as they offered their vows to each other.

There is so much hoopla surrounding a wedding, as well there should be.  But what this ceremony-packed week showed me, reminded me, is that a wedding celebrates a couple’s commitment to honor and relish and live the ordinary routine of daily life.

WHAT do they all this week’s moments have in common?  I think it can be summed up in this quote from the movie, “Shall We Dance?”

“We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. 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.’”

That’s what all these couples were doing – bearing witness to each other’s lives.  And I couldn’t be happier or more honored that they invited me to share the celebrating of that witnessing!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Having A Difficult Conversation – Sparked By Wedding Choices

Last year I posted here an openletter to the divorced parents of a bride or groom.  It was a simple plea for parents to put aside any animosity and generously focus on the joy of their child’s wedding.  To be honest, the letter did not generate the heated response I had anticipated!  But then, a few months ago, out of the blue, I received an email from Roger (names changed), a divorced father whose daughter, Susan, is getting married later this year.  Roger wrote that my “letter” helped him realize that more than anything he wants to be emotionally present for his daughter and future son-in-law.  Of course, there is a “but”!

Roger and his wife divorced when Susan was little.  His ex-wife eventually married Jack and as Susan’s step-dad he’s been a huge part of her life.  While Roger is not a buddy with his ex-wife and Jack they have always respected one another.  And all three are contributing to the cost of the wedding.  So, what’s the “but”?

Susan has asked Roger to escort her down the aisle and she and her fiancé, Brad, have asked Jack to officiate the ceremony (he’ll be getting ordained online).  Roger feels confused and slighted as it appears that Jack is being given a larger and more important role in the wedding celebration.  In addition, Roger’s family is Jewish and Jack is not.  What will people say if there’s no rabbi?  To his credit, Roger doesn’t like feeling petty.  On the other hand, he doesn’t like feeling confused.  He asked me what he should do.

I only know what Roger told me and so, of course, there are several sides to this story.  Whatever the “real” and full story might be, Roger is not the first parent to feel slighted by the decisions of a bride and groom – and you don’t have to be divorced to feel confused!

Here are some pointers I offered Roger during a phone conversation:

Start from the belief that no slight is intended.  Roger said that he had a good relationship with Susan, as did her step-dad Jack, so we can legitimately presume that Susan and Brad are seeking to do their best.  The great traditional honor is for a father to escort his daughter down the aisle.  Because Susan’s fiancé is not Jewish and because Susan’s step-dad is not Jewish and because Susan and her fiancé have decided to have a non-denominational ceremony, it makes sense why they would ask her step-dad.  He is an ideal officiant (theoretically) in that he appeals to both sides.

It doesn’t matter what people think.  I know – simple for me to say!  I gently reminded Roger that his mother is deceased and so it doesn’t matter if she would have been disappointed that her only granddaughter is not being married by a rabbi.  The dear woman no longer has to worry about such things!  I urged him not to worry about what people will say because if anyone objects to Susan not being married by a rabbi, then, they can stay home and binge watch their fav TV series!  A wedding is a day for joy, not judgment.

Trust your relationship with Susan and ask her to help you sort out your feelings by explaining her decision.  I reminded Roger that he is not asking Susan to get his permission for anything; rather, he’s simply asking her to help him make sense of a new type of celebration because he wants to be fully present for her and her Brad.

A great communication tool is something known as “Perception Checking.”  If you don't understand why someone is saying or doing whatever, here’s the template to kick off the conversation:  “When you (describe factually, without judging, what’s confusing you), I wasn’t sure if you (offer a possible interpretation of why you think the person is doing what they’re doing) or if (offer yet another possible interpretation).  Please help me understand because I feel confused and I very much want to be your dad that day.”

Clean – honest – no games!

I went on to suggest that, if possible, Roger, his ex-wife and Jack, together with the couple, explore how to broaden the scope of the ceremony so it’s not focused on Jack and is more inclusive of both families – after all, Brad has parents!

·      Both mothers could do a reading (they alternate stanzas).
·      All three dads could give the blessing at ceremony’s end.
·      Jack could make clear in his opening remarks that he speaks on behalf of all the parents.

Roger liked what I had to say, but, let’s face it – all of this is tricky because people see a wedding from different perspectives.  When it comes to communicating with family, we rely on our default settings, especially when buttons get pressed. 

So the question Roger needs to ask (and perhaps you) is, “What can I do differently, so as to get heard and understood, so as to hear and understand?”

Roger assured me that he was going to talk with his daughter because even though it would be a hard conversation to have, more than anything, he did not want to end up causing her pain.  And besides, he wanted to enjoy every minute of her wedding.  But in order to do that, he had to clear up his confusion.

Again, the ultimate question, whose answer will guide all your decisions is this: “Who do you want to be – for the couple – during one of the seminal times in their life together?”

The answer to that question will be the best gift you can give your child and her/his spouse!

PS:  I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with Susan and Brad.  If I had, though, this is what I would have suggested to them:

As a bride, as a groom, as a couple, it’s easy to become so focused on what you want, that you can presume so much, too much, of those you love.  To reduce miscommunication, practice these 5 strategies:

1.     No surprises – keep all VIPs in the loop throughout the planning.
2.     Be honest in talking with parental units – no guilt-tripping (no matter how tempting – or potentially rewarding).
3.     Don’t assume responsibility for your parents’ feelings.  This isn’t about “making” them happy.  However, don’t trample their feelings.
4.     “Because” – that simple word goes a long to bringing about understanding.  People appreciate understanding the “why” behind a decision.
5.     Keep channels open – “this is what I need from you” can probably never be said too many times!

And what everyone needs to remember is this: you can disagree and still love!

Friday, January 23, 2015

What To Say After 20+ Years Of Marriage

Last year I asked friends who’ve been married ten years or longer to share their thoughts on marriage.  To make it easier, I sent them a list of ten questions and asked that they answer at least five each.

My friends Anthony and Melissa have been married for twenty years (I think!).  Anthony was quick to respond; and I was waiting for Melissa’s answers before I posted.  However, Melissa is in the throes of prepping for the publication of her first book, “Pieces of My Mother” which will be published on May 5th.  I’m thrilled for her and so, hey, I’m going to cut her slack and wait until later in the year for her answers!

In the meantime, here are Anthony’s. . .

My wish for all of you is that 20 years from now, your own answers will be as wonderfully heartfelt!

PS: And if you’re wondering about the photo – I couldn’t get a photo of Anthony + Melissa, so I decided to go with one of their youngest child, GianMarco (6) – truly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!


1.  What do you know today about marriage that there was no way you could have known before you got married?

Well - first of all, how the marriage will ultimately turn out.  Sounds like a truism, however, I didn't know if I'd get bored with my wife after 10 years, if she'd get bored with me, if we'd have kids, where we'd end up -- so I'd point to that future life together, pregnant with possibility and hope and potentially despair, as a most potent piece of knowledge I did not possess.  While marriage recognizes what already is (as you say), it also commits to what might be in the
future.  And for me, looking back, it was important to bind that commitment to our future together - wherever we might end up.

2.  What three words do you think of when you think of your wedding day?
"Radiant in white." 
(Sorry - I was so struck by seeing Melissa in her wedding dress for the first time.)

3.  Why haven’t you gotten divorced?
Because we've both continued to grow and surprise and support each other.

4.  What three things are you grateful for in your spouse?
(1) Her good heart; (2) her infinite and abiding love for our children; (3) her (almost) unconditional support of my personal aspirations.

5.  One sentence advice you’d give to a couple planning to get married?
Do your diligence and seek out counseling or a retreat that will help you ask the questions of each other that you've previously avoided asking.

6.  What has most surprised you about being married?
Honestly?  That I'd still be passionately and physically attracted to my wife after nearly a quarter century of marriage.

7.  How has your partner helped you become who you are today?
She's supported me in pursuing my endeavors.  When I needed her to uproot her life and follow me for graduate education or a job, she followed.

8.  Are you happy you had the celebration you had – or do you wish you had eloped? And if you did elope then just flip the question around!
I'm most happy with the celebration we had.  We were surrounded by everyone who mattered to us, who loved us, and who could witness our commitment to each other - and Melissa and I worked to keep the costs down for the wedding, but the fun- factor up: we held the reception at the house she grew up in (full of memories), we found a discount caterer who still managed to serve fabulous food - and we asked personal friends to celebrate the wedding and ceremony (you, JP)

9.  What did you experience at your wedding that you hope other couples experience at theirs?
The pure joy of being surrounded by more love and well-wishes than you'll most likely ever have in this lifetime.   
10.  In no more than 140 characters sum up your thoughts on marriage!
To the groom - your job is to get your bride into Heaven; to the bride - your job is to get your groom into Heaven.  That's it.