How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On The Huffington Post-Again!

I’ve another posting on The Huffington Post and it is different from my previous blogs in that it’s written not for the bride and groom, but rather for their officiant.  Since you’re reading my blog, I presume you’re interested in exploring the possibility of my officiating your wedding.  So, while this particular posting may not be of interest to you, it will give you a sense of my own style of presiding and what I think is important.

As always, Enjoy!
Is This Your First Wedding As An Officiant?  6 Tips For How To Hold People’s Attention During The Ceremony
To officiate a wedding ceremony for a couple you know and love is truly one of life’s great honors and delights.  And it can also be nerve-wracking!  You’re standing in front of two people who are having an out-of-body experience and you have to be their rock and emotional support throughout the ceremony. 

Over the years I’ve coached many a panicky uncle or grandmother, sister or brother, not to mention college drinking buddy who are nervous because they don’t know what they “should” do or “should” say when they officiate the wedding of a cherished friend or relative.

Well, here’s the thing––five years after the ceremony no one will remember what you said, but they will remember the tone and feeling of the ceremony.  When done well,  a ceremony renews and refreshes people in an emotional way.  Continue reading. . .

Monday, October 29, 2012

Putting On The Ritz

This past Saturday I officiated a wedding at The Ritz down in Dana Pt.  The photo is not of the wedding, but it is of another wedding I officiated on the Pacific Lawn.  It’s one of my favorite vistas of the Pacific.

I had the pleasure of working for the first time with Christine Bailey of White Orchid Productions.  I hope it’s not my last time as she’s wonderfully organized and her team went about their work with effortless ease and graciousness.

I always arrive an hour before a ceremony’s start as it gives me the chance to settle in to a location and gather my thoughts for a final time.  And so it was on Saturday. 

After checking base with Christine, I took a stroll behind the lawn.  And that’s where I spotted the couple to whom this post is dedicated.

They looked to be well into their ‘70’s.  The man was in a wheelchair and his wife was pushing him.  She pushed the chair up to a fence that bordered the perimeter of bluff.  Once he was close enough, he reached over to the fence and pulled himself up.  The wife put her arm around him as they looked out.  I thought, “how sweet.”

But then he turned to his wife, cupped her face in his hands and they began to kiss––energetically.  I was startled because the scene went against the scenario I’d mentally created for them.  Old couple; probably cranky; affectionless not to mention sexless––hope she doesn’t push him off the bluff!  I know, none of this sounds very kind on my part, but, hey, if you knew my relatives, you’d know why I came up with this oh-so-wrong snapshot!

I was deeply moved by the sight of them.  Their bodies may have been broken, but their tenderness was strong.  And apparently their love was as vibrant as the love that my couple, Christine and Nelson, was celebrating that day.

Before a couple exchanges rings, I have them hold hands and remind them that “these are the hands of your best friend.”  My reminder to them ends with the line, “and these are the hands, even when aged, will still reach to you with the same touch that comforts you today.”

I’ve like the image of that line; but, I’m not sure I’ve ever really understood the profoundness of it until I watched this couple, as the wife stroked her husband’s face (you’ll note that I’m presuming they were married and not having an affair!).

I went on my way and officiated the ceremony that was touching in many different details.  Afterwards, as I walked to the lobby, I passed the cocktail lounge and who should I spot having a martini, but––my couple from the bluff!

I grinned. . .so you’re in your 70’s, use a wheelchair, but you’ve got a wife you still make out with (in public) and can cap it off with a drink at The Ritz.  WOW! Now that’s the good life. . .

May your life be just as good. . .

Friday, October 26, 2012

Changing The Way You Argue

Be forewarned that this is not one of my romantically inspiring postings!

I recently met with a couple who is having a cross-cultural, inter-faith ceremony.  I was impressed by how articulate they were in sharing their dream for the ceremony and celebration.  They readily admitted that they’ve done a lot of talking and have had some hard conversations.

After they left, I flashed on a former bride of mine who I ran into last month.  Anna (yes, name changed!) was strolling her six-month old daughter.  Sadly, she told me that she and Jeff were divorcing after just a couple of years being married.  Things had been rocky from the start as Jeff didn’t like to talk about anything important.  And when they did have that rare talk, he’d end up screaming and storming off. 

Anna thought that having a baby would bring them closer (no comment).  The baby didn’t since a baby doesn’t have that kind of power.  And besides, it wasn’t until the baby was born that Jeff told her he didn’t want children!
So, here’s the thing. . .if you and your partner have already established your relationship in the habits of solid conversation, then that will go a long way to help you navigate the demands of your wedding planning.  If, though, you’ve gotten into habits of not talking, face-to-face without distractions, then you really are going to experience stress.

Sometimes, a couple argues about decisions they have to make, other times about things said and done that one of them is offended by.  Over time, the arguing takes on a life of its own and all the couple really does is talk at each other. 

How you communicate directly affects your sanity—individually and as a couple.  If you’re caught up in an endless cycle of arguing, then the only way to break the cycle is to talk about how you talk to each other.

The cycle of arguing will only be broken if you take each other’s hand, step out of the vicious circle, and take a look at why you’re repeating the same conversation over and over and over, no matter what the issue.

·        Is there a conversation you know you should have and are afraid to have?
·        What are you afraid will happen if you talk about the issue?
·        What are you afraid will happen if you do not talk about the issue?
·        What would you like to see happen differently?

Most people think the other person is to blame for the problem.  Drop the blame game.  As the cliché goes, it takes two to tango.

If you want to see you and your partner talk in a different way to each other, ask for your partner’s help.  At a time when you’re not sniping at each other, tell your partner that you want to discuss how the two of you handle tough topics.

Try something like this:
Whenever we talk about finances, it seems we end up arguing.  I get frustrated when you say ‘no’ to something I suggest and then you end the conversation.  Sure, I’d want you to say ‘yes’ and as much as I hate to admit it, I know that ‘yes’ can’t always be the answer.  It’s when you shut down, end the conversation, and refuse to talk about the issue that I feel disrespected and feel that you’re not treating me like a partner.  I don’t know what’s going on inside that head of yours.  I want to discuss money in a way where we don’t end up mad at each other.  Let’s figure out something new here.

As a couple, you’re going to break old dance steps that don’t work for you when you say out loud—this isn’t working, so let’s do something different

I know that this does not come naturally.  It takes practice.  It demands that you together want to create a more honest way of talking to each other.

Your attitude will determine everything.  Lose the anger.  Put aside the judgment.  Accept that a tough conversation is a messy give-n-take.  That’s what dialogue is all about.

I’m sure you can come up with a bunch of reasons for why this will not work.  But, hey, if the way you’re communicating now is not working for you, why not try something new?

And if you’re afraid of what your partner’s reaction might be, then I urge you to think about why you’re marrying someone you’re afraid of!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another "Style Me Pretty" Wedding

I love working with KerrieUnderhill––fun couples, inviting venues, and each wedding is a unique vision. . .

I’m delighted that the wonderful crew at Style Me Pretty has highlighted the wedding of Beverly and Nelson, a couple whom Kerry introduced me to and whose wedding took place last year down in Dana Point. . .


From the Bride… During winter break from university in 2007, we separately planned vacations to Hong Kong to each visit our families. We met on Christmas Eve on a night out with friends through one of my college friends and his sister. Fate must have brought us together halfway around the world, as we learned that we attended the same university! We began dating as soon as we both returned to California. The proposal was in mid-air during hot air balloon ride over Temecula wine country in fall of 2010. As we swooped towards the ground, a huge banner that read “Marry me,” and a beautiful diamond ring was presented to me. Of course I accepted, and the rest of the ride was filled with mimosa toasts and cake. . .continue reading. . .

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reassuring Reassurances

The worst that can be said of a person is that 
they “did not pay attention.”
William Meredith

 I’m not sure how I came across the above quote, but it has stayed with me for years.  I often quote Meredith in my communication training seminars since so much of “mis-communication” is about “mis-perception,” about not paying attention.

So the question for this post is simply this: do you and your partner pay attention to each other?  Especially now as you’re planning your wedding?

Like many of the questions I pose on this blog and in my books, this one seems embarrassingly simple because of course you pay attention, isn’t that what it means to love someone?!

I’m going to maintain, though, that it’s easy to stop paying attention without even being aware, not because you’ve stopped loving your partner, but rather, because you’re so busy.  And because you love each other and because you’re busy, it’s easy to think, “we’ll he knows I love him,” or “she knows that I support her.”

The thing is, “knowing” isn’t enough.  We need to be reassured, especially in times of stress.

So, how do you let your partner know that you’re paying attention?  What does your partner need to do in order for you to be reassured that he or she is paying attention?

Remember:  texting conveys info that is brief and to the point; it doesn’t convey feelings.  It’s not a guaranteed reassurance that you’re paying attention.

On the other hand, simply looking at your partner and not being distracted with multi-tasking is a great act of reassurance!

The most reassuring of reassurances are conveyed in mindful little ways.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wedding For Two

Wedding for Two from Living Cinema on Vimeo.

Back in March, The New York Times in its Sunday edition profiled a new trend in elopements. . .I was delighted that they highlighted a couple whose wedding I officiated last year.

Carey and Brian got married at The Farmhouse in Los Olivos, just north of Santa Barbara.  The setting was wildly romantic and was made even more sensual through the creative magicof Lisa Vorce and her team.

Curtis Heyne of Living Cinema captured the magic of the day and I’m honored to share the highlight video with you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Being Silly On A Hot Autumn Afternoon

A few weeks ago I officiated a wedding at the Terrranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.  It’s an expansive, gracious venue about forty minutes from LAX.  Since I’d arrived early for the wedding, I found a table on the patio outside the lobby where I could check-up on email and messages.

A few chairs away from me sat a couple (early thirties) playing cards.  Coronas were on the table and I spotted wedding rings on each of them.  They were laughing and being silly, looking like a couple of kids having fun on a Fall afternoon.

At one point, the guy’s phone rang.  He glanced at it but then ignored it, took a swig of beer and went back to the cards.  The woman said something, swatted him on the arm and he cracked up. 

What most struck me was just how relaxed they looked––how affectionately “at one” they were in their relaxation.  They were lost in their own world and seemed beyond delighted to be there!

Rose Franken, a popular writer from the mid-last century, once observed that, “Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.” 

What about you and your partner––can you be silly with each other?!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Real Love Is Only What You Give


What my marriage taught me is that real love is only what you give. That's all. Love is not "out there," waiting for you. It is in you. In your own heart, in what you are willing to give of it. We are all capable of love, but few of us have the courage to do it properly. You can take a person's love and waste it. But you are the fool. . .Love is joy. Those who love, no matter what indignities, what burdens they carry, are always full of joy.
 Recipes for a Perfect Marriage

I recently came across this quote and presumed it was another sappy sentiment on love and commitment, but I stopped when I read the phrase, “You can take a person’s love and waste it.”  I’ve never really thought about how I could “waste” someone’s love.  I suppose I’ve focused on how a person could waste my time but not how I could waste their love.

What does it mean to waste a person’s love?  Kind of a no-brainer question, but still I’ve been reflecting on it.  The dictionary definition for “waste” is:  to use, consume, or spend thoughtlessly or carelessly; to pass without being put to use.

If you think about it, at the heart of your vows is the promise not to waste each other’s love––not to treat each other thoughtlessly or carelessly and to always put the love your partner offers you to good use.

I like that notion of actually putting each other’s love to good purpose.  While love makes no demands, in order to experience love fully you have to believe that you’re worthy of love.  And to receive the love of another person is to feel energized.  If you feel loved, then you have to feel energetic in wanting to do some good, to make less bruised this crazy world of ours.

Love is always offered in a spirit of hope––hope that despite whatever messiness there is in the beloved’s life, she or he, because of our love, will be able to make sense of it all and create a meaningful life.

To believe in your partner’s love is to believe that their love speaks truth to any of your fears.

If you waste your partner’s love, you’re wasting an opportunity to become more fully you and so it is true for your partner and your love.

I think that in this exhausting world of ours, to love mindfully and generously is a wildly brave thing to do.  So go wild!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A "Style Me Pretty" Kind Of Wedding!

I had the honor of officiating Judy’s and Justin’s wedding this past March and today their celebration is wonderfully profiled on Style Me Pretty!

I love what I do because I get to work with some of the most generous and talented people you’ll ever find––and we all get to work together by collaborating on weddings for some of the most genuine and loving couples you’ll ever find!

Take a moment to read Judy’s andJustin’s story, take a look at their photos and you’ll understand what I mean. . .

Justin and I first met on July 11th (1 day before my birthday and 2 days after his!) My best friend and I just wanted to go out the two of us and grab a couple of drinks at a local bar and dance. I really wasn’t looking to dating anyone I was really happy being single and starting a new chapter in my life as a college grad. While my best friend and I were hanging out having a drink and enjoying good music a guy comes up to us and asks “What’s up, can I buy you two a drink.” We both looked at each other and said sure. My best friend told the guy (Justin) that it was my birthday the next day and he said no way mine was 2 days ago! We instantly had something in common and it just felt comfortable. Justin took us to his friends and I happen to know one of his friends from a bunch of college classes and another from high school…SMALL WORLD! We ended up dancing the night away together. At the end of the night he told me it would be an awesome birthday gift to get my number (haha cheesy, but so cute!) of course I gave it to him and he texted me “Had a great time with you, get home safe.” I thought that was sweet. We ended up hanging out the next day which was my birthday and the rest is history! Justin and I would talk on the phone for hours there was never an awkward silence or a dull moment. We are truly best friends. I remember telling friends that the next guy I fall in love with will be my husband and that came true!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm On The Huffington Post!

Although it’s been a while since I blogged here, I have been busy writing.  One of my goals for this year was to have a posting published on The Huffington Post and I’m thrilled to say that this month I became a blogger in the Weddings Section!


I recently met with a couple to finalize their ceremony.  When I asked how they were doing, Meredith, the bride, sighed, “Well, we’re not as happy as when we first met you.  We’re just so tired of dealing with people––we want it to be over!”

You don’t need me to tell you that planning a wedding is a wild, wacky emotional roller coaster ride.  But here’s the thing about emotions.  Emotions can either allow us to react to people and situations in a healthy way OR they can trip us up and cause us to sabotage our relationships and plans. 

What we “think” influences what we “feel.”

Emotions that prevent us from acting in a way that is in our own best interest are grounded in some very irrational thoughts—lies––we play so often in our heads that we simply accept them as true, even though they’re not.    

There are two common “lies” couples tell themselves while stressing with wedding planning.  Buy into them and your emotions quickly get out of whack.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Couple I Refused To Marry

Simon and Jacqui were a “nice” couple who happen to be one of a handful of couples whose wedding I declined to officiate.  I actually don’t say “yes” to every couple that asks me to celebrate their ceremony.  While I’m not able to predict if a couple will live happily ever after, I need to have a gut feeling that they have what it takes.

Jacqui and Simon had been together for ten years.  Within minutes of our meeting, Jacqui told me that she had sacrificed her life for Simon.  She gave up plans for grad school so as to work and put him through law school.  She helped him pay off his student loans and she moved around to three different states for him.

She said that now it was her turn—she wanted a wedding and he “owed” her. 

Simon had taken the Bar exam and was waiting to hear the results.  Since he’d reached his goal and Jacqui no longer needed to sacrifice for him, I asked him if was prepared to sacrifice for her.  He looked at me blankly.  Huh?  Again, I asked what was he prepared to do to help her reach her dreams.  He was stumped, as he’d never thought of it quite that way.

I’m not a psychologist or a marriage therapist.  I am, though, a communications coach and it was alarmingly evident that Simon & Jacqui had not had the hard conversations that were needed before getting married.

Jacqui presented herself as a martyr for their love.  Generous?  Yes and also drastic as she sacrificed without any planning for her own future.  Simon wasn’t able to tell me what Jacqui’s dreams were because they hadn’t talked about her dreams.

That Jacqui felt entitled to a fancy wedding because she sacrificed for him, puts an odd spin on their wedding.  A wedding is a couple’s celebration and not the bride’s coronation! 

Planning a wedding with a tit-for-tat mentality is simply not healthy as it’s petty and rife with opportunities for passive-aggressive acts.

I declined to officiate their wedding because I didn’t understand the vision they had for their life together.  It seemed more a transaction than a sacred commitment (sacred in the sense that when two people give their word to each other, that act is bigger than just the two of them).

So, what is your vision for your great day?  For your life together?  If you don’t have a shared vision, then what do you have?!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The 100 Year Old Ring

J+T | Pelican Hill Wedding | Newport Coast | 16mm Wedding Film from Living Cinema on Vimeo.

I officiated Jindy and Tilmann's wedding last Fall at Pelican Hill. There were many special touches woven into their ceremony, the most moving of which was the ring Jindy gave to Tilmann.  It had been his great-grandfather's wedding ring and was one hundred years old!  

I always find the exchange of rings to be something of an electrifying moment in the ceremony and I was especially moved when Jindy placed the ring of Tilmann's finger––it was slipping a hundred years of devotion and love onto his finger!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Greatest Thing

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is
to love and be loved in return

Moulin Rouge

How has your partner taught you to love?
How has your life changed by being loved?
What have you taught your partner about love?
How has your love changed their life?

Answer these questions and you’re well on your way to writing your vows!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Was Your Favorite Ceremony?

When I meet with a couple, one of the first things I ask is: “is there anything you know that you do want or anything you know that you don’t want?”

Brad and Darlene, the couple I met with today, told me that they weren’t sure what they wanted, even though they’ve been to over a dozen weddings in the past two years.  They said that they all had become just a blur. 

But then Brad excitedly turned to Darlene and reminded her of the wedding of their friends Jared and Kathy.  Darlene in turn got excited and agreed that the ceremony had been beautiful.

However, when I asked what about the ceremony they liked, they drew a blank––they couldn’t remember anything specific!  They just remembered that the celebrant offered words that touched them and that spoke to their own relationship.

As they chatted a bit longer about the wedding, it became clear that they couldn’t remember much of anything––just that it was a wonderful experience.

I laughed because they proved what I’ve always maintained.  People don’t remember details so much as they remember the feel and tone of your celebration.  I’m sure Jared and Kathy put a lot of thought and care into the planning of their ceremony and reception, but what Brad and Darlene remembered was the joy and love that went into the day and not the particulars.

I think this is vitally important to keep in mind as you plan your celebration.

So. . .
·        What was the most moving ceremony you’ve witnessed? 
·        What made it memorable for you? 

If you can’t recall the particulars, why do you think that is? 

Let your answers to these questions guide you in your own planning!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Love In All Its Ebb And Flow

When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. 
It is an impossibility. 
It is even a lie to pretend to. 
And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. 
We have so little faith in the ebb and flow
of life, of love, of relationships. 
We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror it ebb. 
We are afraid it will never return.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I’m intrigued and challenged by this quote from the wife of legendary pioneer aviator Charles Lindbergh.  Perhaps you are, too. . .

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dealing With A Momzilla!

Sandy Malone, a guest blogger onthe Huffington Post Wedding Section, recently wrote about how not to let a “momzilla” ruin your wedding day. It’s a good posting and worth reading, in my opinion.  However, the comments brides left especially fascinated me––many of who suggested that you not fight your mom and let her have her way!

Well, although I’m not a bride, that kind of advice makes me feel queasy.  If you let your mother trample on your vision for your wedding will she be satisfied and let you and your husband (wife) live in peace?  I don’t think so.  I think she eventually will go on to tell you how to cook, keep house, and be a wife (or husband).  And, then, when you have kids, I have no doubt she’ll weigh in on your parenting techniques.

Here are some questions I think you and your partner need to talk about at the outset of your wedding planning.  These are issues you need to consciously talk about and not take for granted.

The more clear you are in your answers, the better you’ll be in containing your mother (or father) in their efforts to hijack your day (and your married life):

  1. How do you deal with your parents?  Revert to childhood?  Become passive-aggressive?  Argue heatedly?  Other way?
  2. How do you express to them what you desire for the wedding?
  3. Are you able to explain why you want what you want?
  4. Is your wedding family-focused or-friend-focused?  What are the implications for this?
  5. Have you asked family for specific help in any areas?
  6. What do you think are your parents’ obligations to you regarding the paying and planning of the wedding?
  7. How do you show your family thanks throughout the planning process?
  8. What are you willing/prepared to do if your parents do not go along with your ideas/wishes?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Turning Criticisms Into Complaints

In her book, FOR BETTER, Tara Parker-Pope, blogger for The New York Times Well Section, offers what I think is a critical insight into successful arguing.

She writes that marriage studies show that one of the main differences between a good fight and a bad fight is whether it begins with a complaint or a criticism. For example, "I wish you went with me to see more vendors" (complaint) versus "You never show any interest in planning this wedding. What's wrong with you?" (criticism).

The difference between a complaint and a criticism is often subtle, but the results are dramatic. 

Criticizing and attacking your partner will only make them defensive.  In turn, they’ll either shut-down or lash out.

A complaint lets your partner know how you feel as a result of the upsetting or disappointing behavior.

Of course, since 80% of what we pay attention to is the non-verbal (tone of voice and facial expression) and only 20% of what we pay attention to is the verbal, you want to make sure that you’re not yelling or using the tone of voice you’d take with a disobedient child!

Think back on your last argument––did it begin with one of you criticizing the other?  Were you upset more with what your partner said or with how he or she said it?