How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tips For Expressing Your Feelings So That You Get Heard

When you weren’t planning for your wedding, managing emotions might have been “manageable” if not even fun. Now, though, you’re dealing with people you normally don’t interact with and many of these people are asking you to make decisions and do things that are out of your normal “real” world. You will feel emotions you hadn’t felt before. Old buttons will be pressed. How you and your partner handle these emotional experiences will influence how you deal with emotions after the last “thank you” note is sent. To give you further insight into your relationship with emotions, consider these questions. Which ones describe you? Your partner?

1. Do you frequently end arguments by saying, “That’s just how I feel”?
2. Do you believe your partner should know how you feel about him or her without having to tell your partner?
3. Do you look to your partner to make you feel happy?
4. Do you use the word “feel” more often than the word “think” or “believe”?
5. Do you call yourself “stupid” after making a mistake?
6. Are there feelings you have that you don’t like because you think it’s wrong to have them?
7. Do you think feelings are inferior to logic?
8. Do you think if you say something once, then that should be enough?
9. Do you think your partner’s feelings are as important as yours?
10. Do you care how people feel when you express your feelings?
11. Do you feel overwhelmed by your feelings?

If you answered, “yes” to four or more of these questions, then the stress of wedding planning will gnaw at your nerves!

The following tips will help you manage your emotions and in doing so help you and your partner navigate those unexpected moments that will stun you with their infuriating oddity and dysfunctionality.

• Identify what triggered whatever it is you’re feeling. It doesn’t take much to trigger a feeling. It’s easy to say that you don’t know why you feel the way you do. If you don’t know why, then is it fair to lash out at your partner? Having your partner be aware of what specifically he or she said or did (or did not do) will let them engage you. Avoid sweeping generalizations. Again, pinpoint what has set off what you’re feeling.

• Recognize what you’re feeling. For most people life is bone-crushing fast and jam-packed. Although we’re constantly feeling, it may seem like we’re not because we’ve trained ourselves not to pay attention. Be aware of what you’re emotionally experiencing (check that word list from Chapter 9). The more aware you are, the more you’ll be able to help your partner be aware.

• Share the mixed feelings you have. We seldom feel just one way. You might appreciate your mother’s efforts to help and at the same time be annoyed that she calls four times a day. More times than not it’s just easier to express the “negative” feelings, which are usually the stronger, without sharing any of the others. Help your partner (relative, friend) get as full a sense of what you’re experiencing, by letting them know all of what you’re feeling. “I’m happy that you want to help out AND I’m feeling overwhelmed with all your phone calls.”

• Recognize the difference between feeling and acting. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad. They just are. Don’t feel guilty about what you’re feeling. However, your responsibility is to manage those feelings in such a way that they don’t exhaust you, drive you to distraction or cause hurt.

• Express your feelings clearly, without understating, overstating. Remember that telling your partner you’re “a little annoyed” tells him or her nothing. Your partner (or relative, friend) simply isn’t capable of figuring out on his or her own what “a little” actually means. On the other hand, leave the melodrama to your fav reality show—avoid those Bridezilla instincts.
• Choose the best time and place to express your feelings. There’s a time and place for everything and making your partner look like a jerk in front of a vendor isn’t the right time and place.

This posting is an excerpt from my new book – How to Keep The ‘I’ In ‘I Do’ – which you can find exclusively at Amazon Kindle. . .enjoy!

Friday, August 23, 2013

True Kindness

true story
I recently reunited with a couple whose wedding I officiated fifteen years ago. They look older but their spirits are as I remember them. Open, inquisitive, yet clearly defined in their ongoing aspirations. “Jack Daniels” joined us at the table and story begat story. It was a magical night.

As I was leaving, Frank suddenly asked me, “Do you know why Renee and I are still in love?” Various answers came to mind, but I just said, “No, why are you still in love?” With pride he replied, “We’re kind to each other.”

Frank explained how he and Renee consciously decided that they didn’t ever want to lose sight of being each other’s partner and best friend—not punching bag or dumping ground for the day’s irritations. So simple, yet so challenging!

No matter how strong and healthy your relationship, stress cracks will appear when the bliss of engagement turns into the craziness of actual planning. Planning your wedding will test your kindness to each other in surprising ways.

While there are many ways in which to be kind to your partner, how you express what you’re feeling is one of the most important. Letting your partner know how you feel in a way that doesn’t turn him or her into that punching bag is one of the kindest things you can do—for your partner and each other.

Here are four things you need to avoid doing.

1.  Has anyone ever been annoyed with you and sarcastically asked, “What the #@%^ is wrong with you?” And when they asked what’s wrong with you, did you smile, sit down and tell them what’s wrong with you? Didn’t think so!

Loudly attacking someone with phrases such as, “What’s wrong with you?” “Leave me alone—can’t you see I’m busy?” or “You’re driving me nuts!” will definitely drive the other person away. The only problem is they’ll be so annoyed with you that they won’t want to talk to you later on or help you. And really, why should they?

AVOID: outbursts. They just signal that you’re in a bad mood without offering any insight into why. There’s never a good time to be nasty!

2.  Do you end heated “discussions” with, “That’s just how I am”? Nice. Cute. Useless! No one is ever “just” something. We always feel a certain way for a reason. If you don’t tell the other person why you’re feeling what you’re feeling, they’ll storm off thinking that you’re a jerk (or some stronger word).

AVOID: dramatic declarations. They provide no clue as to why you are the way you “just” are and most likely your partner is going to feel “just” fed up with you stonewalling him or her.

3. What about when you say, “I’m kinda mad at you right now.” How mad is “kinda”? Is your “kinda” the same as your partner’s “kinda”? Understated expressions can only confuse your partner. The clearer you are in describing how you feel, the better chance your partner has of understanding you and being able to help you.

AVOID: vague words such as: almost, better, big, cheap easy, expensive, in a minute, probably, soon. You know what you mean by these words, but your partner may not. When you say, “I’ll be ready in a minute,” how many minutes is that “minute”! You decrease your chances for being misunderstood, the more specific you are.

4. And the single most important word to avoid is: YOU: You never. You always. You disappoint me. You make me sick.

When you attack the other person with a barrage of “you’s” all they can do is one of two things—lash out or become defensive.

At my first meeting with a couple I can easily predict how they’ll handle planning stress. If they repeatedly use the phrase, “we’re feeling” then I know they’re in this together. But sometimes, couples speak in a sarcastic tone, tossing out “you this and you that” at a rapid pace. Clearly, the stress is going to bring them to their knees long before their wedding day.

AVOID: “you.” That one little word has the power to press your partner’s buttons. You know how you react when someone attacks you with “you,” so why attack your partner with “you” when you know what you’re doing!

We’re all guilty of what I’ve just described. Why? Because old habits die hard. Because we’re lazy. Because we think we don’t or shouldn’t have to explain ourselves. BUT, you do have to explain yourself; otherwise, you’ll drive your partner nuts, who, in turn, will drive you nuts!

Sanity Saver Questions:
• In the past week, how many times have you accused your partner of not “caring”?
• In the past week how many times have you complained to someone about your partner not understanding you?
• In the past week how many times have you understated your feelings or bombarded your partner with “you” accusations?
• What would you like to see happen differently?

Remember: You protect and keep each other sane when you are aware of and acknowledge each other’s feelings, try to understand and not judge those feelings, and go on to take responsibility for owning and expressing your feelings.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thoughts On Writing Your Own Vows

Here's an article in last Sunday's New York Times that offers some interesting advice on how to write your own vows.


NYT: August 16, 2013

Writing your own vows, Lois Kellerman says, is like making homemade cookies.
 “If you can find the right ingredients, the right words in the case of vows, it is almost always better,” said Ms. Kellerman, a former leader of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture who has officiated at hundreds of weddings.

Many brides and grooms are choosing to say vows they have written themselves, whether marrying in a meadow or a cathedral. Writing your own vows, then standing up and saying them in front of a crowd definitely heightens the emotions at a wedding ceremony.

“Some couples have stage fright and don’t want to get up there and bare it all in public, possibly crying, just being a mess,” said Rachael Hofmann, a wedding planner in Boulder, Colo. “It’s tough to get that emotional publicly.”

But homemade vows can add much to the ceremony. “I think a lot of people overlook the fact that the ceremony should be really lovely and heartfelt,” said Amanda Kingloff, 38, a writer who lives in Brooklyn and who wrote her vows for her marriage to Michael Cohen in Garrison, N.Y., in May 2009. “They think more about, ‘Should I be serving fish or chicken?’ ”

“I wanted my vows to be a creative spin on who we are,” Ms. Kingloff said. By the time they wed, she and Mr. Cohen, now 42, had lived together two years. Her vows read more like a short story about how, once they started dating seriously, her furniture and various collections had merged with Mr. Cohen’s, a metaphor for how their lives had joined.

She made just a few promises in her vows. “I didn’t need to say, ‘I vow to honor and cherish you’ because we already cherished each other,” she said. “It seemed obvious.”

Brides and grooms began writing their own vows in the mid-19th century, according to Elizabeth Abbott, who has written several books about marriage. American feminists and the like-minded men they married were among the first to reword traditional vows.

“They wrote vows together to express a common view of marriage,” Ms. Abbott said. “They thought about it really carefully because it was quite radical at the time, whereas today, I would say, it’s very personal.”

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Jumbolaya Of Feelings!

true story
Maureen’s (names changed) maid of honor, Denise, was driving down from San Francisco to Hollywood for the weekend. They were going to work on wedding stuff. Denise said she’d be there in time for dinner. 6:00pm—no maid of honor. A couple of hours passed—no maid of honor and no phone call. By 11:00pm Maureen was panicked as she hadn’t been able to get hold of Denise. At 11:30pm Denise breezed in, much to Maureen’s relief. But when Maureen asked what had happened, Denise lamely said that she’d gotten a “late” start. She went on to say that her phone battery died. Maureen was dumfounded that Denise hadn’t given any thought to how worried she’d be.

Maureen admitted that she yelled at Denise, demanding to know what was wrong with her that she couldn’t have stopped to call. And, of course, Denise grew annoyed with Maureen for “making a big deal out of nothing.” Maureen shot back that she now wondered why she’d asked her to be her maid of honor! Denise wasn’t going to have any of that and hit back with the zinger, “I’ve got more on my mind than just your wedding.”

There were more nasty words and then silence. Come morning, both women apologized and then spent the rest of the weekend trying to repair the damage.

Emotions—ugh! Buttons are pressed so quickly. Words spit themselves out so easily. And the tone of it all is so often biting, sarcastic, condescending. And that’s when you’re not planning a wedding!

Here’s the reality: feelings get jumbled-up very easily.

Often times while we feel one strong emotion, there’s another, secondary emotion(s), lurking around. At times it’s difficult for us to figure out how best to express what we’re feeling. And so we end up expressing what is the strongest of the feelings. Although Maureen was relieved Denise was safe, her annoyance was the stronger feeling and that’s what came out in her tone and words. Then the conversation quickly took on a life of its own that wasn’t pretty.

Unfortunately, we seldom reveal the complexity of what we’re feeling. During planning, your emotions will get jumbled and will be hard to sort out. The “trick” is to recognize what you’re feeling and make that mindful effort to explain to your partner, friend, parent or vendor what’s going on inside your head and heart.

And, yes, that requires trust and honesty. Do you and your partner have that “dance step” in place?

Sanity Saver Questions:
• In the past week, has you’re partner asked how you’re feeling?
• Have you been able to give your partner some insight into what you’re feeling?
• In the past week have you been able to tune in to your partner’s feelings?

Remember: It’s fine to feel what you feel, but you have to let your partner (or whomever) understand the complexity of what you’re feeling. Otherwise, you’ll just come off as some crazy person to be avoided!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Finding Love After Hitting Rock Bottom

I recently had a final meeting with a couple who are getting married next month.  During a leisurely Starbucks conversation, Max (names changed-as always!) said this to me:

“I had to reach rock bottom in past relationships before I could find Kate. I had self-imprisoned myself in a gulag of abuse. I knew I wanted better and so I set out in search of Kate.”

The old cliché that marriage is a “ball and chain” made no sense to Max, as for him marriage was freedom—to experience love, to love and to move closer to being the man he wanted to be.

One of my favorite poets, Mark Doty, observed: “How shall we know ourselves, except in the clarifying mirror of some other gaze?”

Max and Kate understand that their wedding is a celebration of choice – a celebration of moving into the light.

And so for them, marriage, with all of its unknowns and uncertainties, is about overcoming fear: the fear of not being worthy.

Can I predict the future for any couple? No, BUT with Max and Kate I can bet my money that theirs is an enduring love.  Why? Because once you’ve “seen” what they’ve seen, it’s very, very hard to “un-see” it!

In that book which is my memory,
On the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you,
Appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life.’
Dante Alighieri