How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Friday, January 31, 2014

In One Ear and Out the Other

true story
“Is there anything you know you do want or anything you know you don’t want in your wedding ceremony?” is one of the first questions I ask a couple. When I recently asked this question, the bride, Anne, sort of smiled and said: “We were supposed to talk about this stuff on the ride over here but Rob (the groom) was too busy taking calls from work—so, we don’t really know what we want.” 
Anne actually seemed more resigned than angry. After all, that’s what life is like for most of us these days. And, yes, during our meeting Rob continued to take calls. And, no, there was no deadline or emergency at work. It was simply habit.

In the whirlwind of our daily lives, the most common reason why we don’t listen is that we’re just too busy and because we’re busy, we’re tired, and when we’re tired we don’t want to make the effort to be present in the moment so as to listen well.

I know you’ve got a gazillion things to juggle, professionally and personally, but, why go to the expense, time, and emotional investment of your wedding if you aren’t going to be present to it—to each other?

Blackberries. Trios. Text messages. Email. Voice mail. We do business and live our lives in a swirl of information. Yet, how often are we actually communicating, listening?

Here’s a Sanity Saver Quiz to review your take on listening. Jot down whether you agree or disagree with each statement. Make sure your partner also does this checklist. Be honest with your answers (!) and then compare with your partner.

Sanity Saver Quiz:
1. While listening to someone, it’s possible to also pay attention to someone or something else.                            Agree | Disagree
2. You can make someone listen to you.                                Agree | Disagree
3. Part of being a good listener is being a good mind reader.   Agree | Disagree
4. When you don’t have the time or the interest, it’s better and nicer to just pretend to be listening.                                  Agree | Disagree
5. It’s always a good idea to offer a person advice when they’re having a problem.
Agree | Disagree
6. The most important thing when listening is to look the person in the eye. 
Agree | Disagree 

So, how well do you and your partner listen to each other? Really listen?

The Chinese characters for “listen” are: Ear, Eye, Heart, and Undivided Attention.
Think about it. Isn’t it true that when you really listen to someone, you’re not just “hearing” him or her? You’re focused on them—on their face, their eyes, their body movement, as well as on what they don’t say, just as much as what they do say.

Remember: in order to stay sane while planning your wedding, you’re going to have to listen—with your ear, your eyes, your heart as you give your partner your undivided attention.

Friday, January 24, 2014

For Better, For Worse - The "Secret" To A Life-Giving Marriage

Last month I learned that Jack and Jill (yes, names changed!), a couple whose wedding I officiated two years ago, recently split-up.  I heard this from their planner and have not spoken with them directly. 

So, here’s the thing – I’m not able to predict the future for any couple and I recognize that marriage is one of the great acts (leaps) of faith known to us.  I’m enough of a realist to know that, sadly, not all of my couples will remain married.  But I have no way of knowing who will “make it” and who will not. 

Having said that, I was stunned when I heard that Jack and Jill are divorcing.  If I had to place money on a sure bet couple, it would have been them.  The more I thought about them, the more angry, yes, angry, I felt. “NO! You can’t divorce!” is what I wanted to shout.  And I know, really I do, that I don’t have the right to say that.

Since then I’ve been mulling over why some couples continue to create a vibrant, life-giving life and others don’t.  I’ve been reflecting on the marriages of some of my friends.  I’m a “lucky” guy in that some of the most wonderful people on the face of the earth are my friends.  And some of them have been married for decades.  What’s their “secret”?

I contacted a handful of these trusty friend couples and invited them to offer reflections on their own marriage.  Lance and Anne were the first to respond – and given that they recently had their third child, I’m in awe of their time-management skills!

Lance wrote, Anne collaborated, and I’m grateful, delighted and proud to share with you their heartening thoughts.
By: Lance Hedges
The strength of your marriage is directly proportionate to the quality of the person you marry.
Lacking in romance?  Surely.
Subjective in tone and application?  Certainly. 
The absolute truth?  Undoubtedly.

All marriages are based on the making of a promise to stand by each other together, for the rest of each other’s lives together.  Unfortunately, nature dictates that we do not fully grasp the enormity of this promise as the vows are spoken. 

The romantic and hopeful rush of emotions that accompany the declaration of “I do”s are motivated by dreams far richer than they are poor, much healthier than are sick, and full of times far more good than bad.  These sugarplum visions are natural, normal and completely expected.

After all, getting married is supposed to be the key that unlocks much of the Better life has in store for us.  

Better is all about fun and family.  It’s faith affirmed, fortune found and long held daydreams come true.

Better is hopes realized and prayers answered. 
And it’s wonderful. 
It’s also not alone.

So long as there are highs, so too there will be lows.  As long as there is Better, so too there will be Worse. 

At the very least, Worse is the bad that comes with the good, something to grin and bear.  And get through.
But it can also be awful. 
Worse than awful.
It can be really sad, really scary and really, really hard.  
It can also hurt.  A lot. 
Worse sets in as terribly as it wants, when it wants.

Getting through it requires mustering and mastering those most difficult of graces- Patience.  Trust.  Forgiveness.- and demonstrably doing your very best. A difficult enough task in even the best of times.  

And just as in the case of times good, times bad shall eventually pass as well.  Hopefully, your marriage didn’t pass along with them.

Because just as you cannot know from where and whence the storm will come, so to you cannot know how well your marriage will weather it.   All you can know is that when it hits, and it will, you are both in it together. 

How much you are there for each other, how much you do for each other, how much better you make each other, will reveal how good your marriage is. 

How great your marriage is.
How strong your marriage is.
Or is not. 

The nature of marriage being what it is, you cannot do it alone.  You must count on the other absolutely.

Which means...marry the right person.

If you choose to get married, your paths will join and your life’s adventures will entwine, forever.  How will you know the person you are marrying is the right one?

How can you know?
You can't. 

It all comes down to faith.  You have to believe in the person you want to marry.  And trust they similarly believe in you.

Determining how well the following list applies to you and the person you wish to marry could help provide the gut check you need though.  

You don't just acknowledge what makes them special, you are in awe of what makes them great.
1.     You don't just accept their failings, you understand them.
2.     You don't just wish to be with them forever, you fear living life without them.
3.     You don't just share a faith, you believe in the same most important things.
4.     You don't just have common goals, you share each other's dreams.
5.     They don't just make you better.  With are at your very best.

My wife and I recently had an opportunity to test the strength of our vows.  After an extended period of unemployment, the celebrations that marked our successful passage through such trying times was surprisingly clouded by the amount of comments received from people admitting they couldn’t believe we made it through together.  More surprisingly was how often they admitted to doubting their own marriages would have similarly survived.  I was surprised by their lack of confidence.  Until I realized they may have understood my First Law more than I realized.  And had less faith in their partners than we had in each other.  

After all, there is no secret to what allowed the two of us to succeed.
Patience. Trust.  Forgiveness.
We leaned on our vows, and each other.
After ten years of Better several bouts with Worse, life together has never been better.
Because ten years ago, we married the right people.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How To Break Self-Sabotaging Habits When Arguing

First, you and your partner need to be aware of what your old habits are—and what kicks them into play. What are your default dance steps? Do you argue, go into the bedroom, lock the door and hide under the covers? Do you yell, “What’s the use?” and then give your partner the silent treatment?

Once you’re aware of what’s going on, you’ll be capable of changing the dance steps. You’ll stop channeling your mother—or father—or some weird combination of each.

Second, you and your partner don’t have to shout or pout. 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. Therefore, don’t roll your eyes. Don’t be sarcastic. Tone of voice is essential.

When your partner tries to provoke you, just smile and ask, “Are you trying to press my button?” Make it a sly question rather than an accusation.

Third, you and your partner must avoid accusing each other with the word “you.” Every time you talk to a person, saying “you never,” you always,” you push them up against a wall and they can only become defensive. They literally can’t listen to you.

Has anyone ever told you what is wrong when you sarcastically asked, “Do you know what your problem is?”

The more you can speak from a place of ‘I’ the more you can help state what you are feeling in a way that increases the chance of being heard and understood.

Fourth, you and your partner need to lose the drama of the ultimatum: “If you___, then I swear I will____.” Remember that the only way an ultimatum ultimately works is if you carry through on it. Are you prepared to carry out your ultimatum? If not, then lose the melodrama. Besides, you know that your family and friends will provide you with more than enough ultimatums.

Fifth, you and your partner should not be required to read each other’s minds! 

There is, though, a reason why most people expect their partner to read their mind. Remember when you began dating and the gift he gave you on that first gift-giving occasion? You smiled and thought, “What was he thinking when he bought this?” As odd or as hideous as the gift may have been, you were touched. After all, it is the thought that counts.

Now, though, if he gave you something that was just as odd and out of sync with your personality, the “thought” would not count.

The irony is that the more we love someone, the more we expect them to know, without our having to say a word, what we want, need, feel. And so, we play games.

Yes, playing games is part of the whole relationship “thing.” It’s easy for me to just tell you—stop playing the games—however, I know it’s not that easy to do. Playing games is fun—in that twisted relationship way. However, cut it out!

Sanity Saver Questions:
·      Which of the habits I mentioned are you most “guilty” of?
·      What kind of satisfaction do you get when you use one of these self-sabotaging techniques?
·      Are you willing to try something different?

Remember: one-by-one break these habits that lead to nowhere good and you’ll significantly reduce stress—during planning as well as after planning your wedding.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Wedding Dream Nightmare


Last month at a networking event I met Courtney, an events manager at a major downtown LA venue.  During our conversation, Courtney shared with me the extraordinary and near tragic story of her wedding. 

Hers is a cautionary tale and I suspect that it’s a story too many brides can relate to.

I’m grateful to Courtney for letting me post her story and I admire both her courage and the courage of her husband. . .

A Wedding Dream Nightmare
Courtney Kanner Fishman

I got married on August 18, 2013. A couple of months leading up to our big day, I became obsessed with being a “skinny” bride. I tried the best I could by working out six times a week and keeping to a healthy diet but I couldn’t lose any weight. Although I’ve been thin most of my life, I wasn’t going to settle for being 143 pounds and unable to fit into my Size 2 wedding dress.  Then I hit on the seemingly perfect solution. Since I suffer from migraines, I pleaded with my doctor to prescribe a migraine medicine that also has a side effect – weight loss.

As I swallowed the first 25 mg pill, I remember feeling excited that my world was about to change.  It did, but not for the better.

The first signs of trouble started when I began to feel numbness in my feet and hands. I could no longer taste the carbonation in sodas and experienced hallucinations at a dinner with some friends. Since all I cared about was the weight loss, I ignored these side effects because I had lost ten pounds in just one month.

In the second month, the side effects mounted. I had difficulty speaking and was constantly repeating myself and unable to finish sentences.
As horrible as these side effects were, I deluded myself into feeling that this was an acceptable price to pay. In fact, I had my doctor up my dosage to 200 mg because I still had another eight pounds to lose.  I was determined to make my fantasy a reality.

By my wedding day I had reached 128 pounds! 

Although I had hit my goal weight and looked beautiful, on the inside I was a mess. I was irritable and forced to hide my inner turmoil with a smile.  During the ceremony, I stared into the eyes of my husband and felt like a hollow shell. My body was foreign to me. I had to maintain this charade for hours and barely kept it together. Only those who’ve known me for years could see the distance in my eyes and sense that something wasn't right.

Later, what should have been a night filled with passionate romance turned into a marathon of hysterical crying. My husband and I didn’t know what to do. We thought it was the result of the “routine” stress that some brides go through. What we didn't know was that this breakdown was just the beginning.

A few days later we embarked on an eleven-day honeymoon that began in Lake Como, Italy and was supposed to finish in the Greek Islands.

We never made it to Greece. 

I became so depressed and disassociated from myself that I couldn’t even recognize my husband. I was hallucinating, barraged with scary thoughts of self destruction. I told my husband that I wanted to jump off a cliff and was consumed with suicidal ideations. We flew home immediately but my nightmare only escalated.

At one point I was rushed to the hospital because I didn’t even know who I was. I was convinced that either I had had a stroke or was suffering from dementia. I said such hurtful things to my husband that we were on the verge of separating.

It wasn’t until a friend asked, “Do you think the medicine you were taking for your migraines/weight loss is causing all of this?” that I realized there could be another explanation for why this was happening to me.

I was shocked to discover all the horrible side effects that the drug I had taken could cause. I was angry with myself and I resented my doctor who could have prevented this from happening. But my anger was also mixed with relief – maybe there was hope.

I insisted that my doctor take me off this “poison.” However, I couldn’t go “cold turkey” because of the risk of an epileptic seizure; I had to slowly taper off the drug. I will never forget the day after I swallowed the last pill. It really was like flicking on a light switch in my mind – I was back!  Finally, once again, I was calm, happy and remembered all of the feelings I had for my husband, family and friends. Now my tears were tears of joy.

The medication ruined a good part of my wedding day, destroyed my honeymoon and almost led me to divorce in the first month of my marriage. Even scarier, it almost took my life.

I’m sharing my story because I want to urge you not to fall for society’s obsession with weight loss. Be kind to yourself. Never take a medication without knowing its potential side effects. I wish I first had done my research as I later discovered that hundreds of thousands of people who have taken this medication have experienced similar, if not worse, side effects.

 I wish I had been content being a little over the weight I had deemed acceptable for my wedding day. I’m ashamed for what I put my mind and my body, my husband, friends and family through.  And for what? Some nice pictures where I look thin? 

Photographs will fade but don't let your love for “you” fade. I wish I had valued myself enough to accept me for who I am.

Please don’t make the same mistake I did. In the end, the risks just aren't worth it. 

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Courtney Kanner Fishman has been in the wedding industry for the last ten years. She began her career as a wedding planner and now is an events manager for a major downtown venue.
Courtney is the co-author of, The Daternet for Women and The Daternet for Men: The Sexy, Unbridled, Definitive Guide to InternetDating. She is proud to say that she met her husband online and encourages others, if they haven’t already begun their quest with online dating to start today.