How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A QUIZZ To Help You See Clearly During The Craziness Of Planning

It’s easy to get lost in your “own” world while planning your wedding. And in that world, often times, things can get distorted, much like those weird mirrors in a fun house. Here are Ten Questions to get you thinking about the “mirrors” in your world:

1.     Do you think that if your partner does something that upsets you, it’s because he or she deliberately wants to hurt you?
2.     Do you see how and where you can be wrong in a discussion?
3.     In a discussion, do you look for ways to disprove what the person is saying?
4.     Are you familiar with your partner’s culture, family, religion?
5.     Do you think the world revolves around you? (okay—loaded question!)
6.     Do you often use the phrase, “I know how you feel?”
7.     If there’s a 50% chance of rain, do you think it’s going to rain?
8.     Do you believe that every problem has a solution?
9.     Do you often use the phrase, “What’s the use?”
10.  Are you able to see the wedding planning from your partner’s p.o.v.?

If you answered, “yes” to any of the odd-numbered questions, and “no” to any of the even-numbered ones, then most likely you will feel frustratingly challenged as you deal with the foreseen and unforeseen issues that unexpectedly pop up during planning!

Years ago my brother found a neon clock from “Alexander’s,” a NYC department store that went out of business decades ago. It was our grandmother’s favorite store. Peter gave it to me as a Christmas gift.

I hung it in my dining room, lower to the floor. The placement gave it that “artsy” feel. A few months later, the neon burnt out and I took it to a repair shop. A couple of weeks went by and I got a call from the owner. He had set the clock against the wall and his toddler son came along and dropped a toy car on top of it.

The plastic rim now had a hole in it. It couldn’t be repaired. When I brought it home, it didn’t look good in its old spot as the hole was glaring. Irritated that it was ruined, I stored it in a closet—until a friend suggested I place it high up on the wall, so no one could see the hole. So simple.

Why hadn’t I thought of moving the clock from a very low to a very high spot? Because I was so fixated on the old spot and on its imperfection.  And I think this is the biggest challenge while planning a wedding—to look up when you’re fixated on looking down!

Here are five simple things you can do to look “higher.”

A.   You made the choice to hold a wedding celebration out a place of joy, celebration, and gratitude. Each week remind each other of the “why” of that choice.

B.    Giving up on a problem or challenge that is crimping your wedding planning obviously will solve nothing. Select a problem that you’re obsessing over. Can you look at it from another angle? Think of it as a mystery to be cracked open and not as an insurmountable obstacle.

C.    There’s more to life than planning a wedding. Make time to enjoy what you enjoy doing—individually and as a couple. Spending time on non-wedding fun will help clear your head and refresh you when you return to dealing with wedding issues.

D.   Make time to offer thanks to all the good things and to all the good people that uplift and support you in the planning. Gratitude puts everything into right perspective.

E.    Most especially, thank your partner for all things, large and small, that he or she does to make the planning less stressful and more fun for you. Tell your partner what you specifically appreciate.

It’s soooo easy to get lost in our heads, create soap operas and lose sight of what life (i.e. wedding planning) is all about.

However. . .

Staying sane is worth the effort!

Monday, March 23, 2015

What To Do When Parents Unintentionally Complicate Wedding Planning

When not officiating weddings, I’m a corporate communications coach and trainer (  In addition, I teach business and cross-cultural communication courses at UCLA Extension.  Last week my eleven-week course on interpersonal communication wrapped-up.  Rose (name changed) wasn’t able to make the last class and here’s an excerpt from the email she sent me. . .and, YES, all of this does have something to do with wedding planning – trust me – read on!

I’m so sorry that I missed last night’s last class. I was in the car on the way there and ended up having a tough conversation with my parents about wedding planning - the source of many of our family’s conversations these days.
We ended up talking on the phone for 2 hours and it was such an important, necessary conversation for us to have that I made the tough call to continue on and miss the class. . .
The most important thing I’ve gained from the course is the idea of the “family motto”. This is why I skipped the class last night: My family and my fiance’s family have completely different family mottos and it’s been clouding the way that everyone communicates with each other.

My family motto is “wear your heart on your sleeve” and his is “keep your cards close to your chest”. Our parents have been having so many misunderstandings and disagreements lately and it’s all a result of them not understanding where the other ones are coming from.
My parents are transparent and want everyone to share their feelings during our meetings and discussions and his parents just don’t operate that way. This has resulted in my fiance and I putting ourselves in the middle, which has turned into a giant game of telephone, which we ended last night.
After asking our parents to talk directly to each other, we had conversations with each set of parents and it became clear that our mottos are in conflict.
And it was because of what I learned in your class that I feel that I was able to take control of the conversation and get everyone to realize that we’re all operating towards the same goal but we’re getting there different ways. Our best course is to understand that about each other and accept each other for who we are.
Thank you for giving me the tools and confidence to do so.
So what is this “family motto” thing that Rose referred to?  Well, let me tell you a. . .
true story
When Paulann and Darius (names changed) hired me they’d not yet chosen a venue. He had a large family and wanted a place where they could invite everyone “plus one.” She had a small immediate and extended family and didn’t care where they got married. 

As the weeks passed, they still hadn’t found the right place and were bickering to a degree that surprised each of them. She nixed every venue he liked and he began to wonder if she even wanted to get married.

When we got together it was clear that they were working from different visions of their day, guided by what I call family mottos.

Our family’s beliefs and rituals are like the air we breathe. Every family lives life guided by a motto, a mantra. Sometimes it is spoken aloud; other times it is implicitly understood. But no matter, this motto guides a family as it navigates through life.

When I was growing up, my family’s motto was – “trust no one”. My father was a cop. His job demanded that he be leery of all. And as is often the case, his work flowed into his home.  I breathed in that mantra without thought or doubt. Later in life I had to work hard to overcome its limitations and to trust people.

When growing up, Darius’ home was where all the neighborhood kids wanted to hang out. His mother loved to cook. His family made a good fuss over holidays and birthdays. “The more the merrier!” was their motto.

Paulann’s family was close-knit and very private. Few of her friends were ever invited for dinner. Holidays and birthdays were celebrated in a low-key way. By ten o’clock the dishes were done and everyone was heading to bed. “Proper and Private” were the guiding words in her family’s life.

Darius saw their wedding as the celebration of all celebrations. Paulann didn’t want to share her day with so many people. What to do? Talk. They had to talk openly and trustingly. They had to have some hard conversations, revealing feelings that surprised each of them.

Once they were able to see things from each other’s perspective, they were able to go about making honest decisions that honored them both. They were able to begin to create a new family motto—one that was their very own.

Sanity Saver Questions:
·      How were you taught to see life? What is your family’s motto regarding life?
·      How was your fiancé taught to see life? What is your fiancé’s family’s motto?
·      How do those assumptions about life influence you in your life together? As you plan your wedding?

Without understanding your family’s and your partner’s family’s assumptions about how life is lived, you will be setting yourself up in subtle ways for the stress of misunderstanding.

Remember: the challenge, the responsibility and the excitement of creating a life together involves embracing a new motto of life. If your family’s motto limits you and your partner, then respectfully work around it or put it to the side. Choose a new motto – the motto that will guide you and your partner.

Friday, March 13, 2015

My Top 10 “What The?!” Wedding Moments!

When I’m in a social setting and I tell people that I officiate weddings, inevitably, they will ask, “So, what was the worst thing that happened at a wedding?”  And they ALWAYS ask the question with a glint in their eyes!

Recently, just for the heck of it, I jotted down a list of the more memorable things that have gone wrong at my weddings over the years.  I’ve been fortunate, or rather, my couples have been fortunate that no one of these “disasters” was worthy of going viral.  However, each and all gave a signature, “whack-a-do” moment to the ceremony.  And with each memory there’s a lesson learned.

Here are my Top 10 “What The?!” Wedding Moments:

1.     The longest reading I ever heard in a ceremony was three pages, single-spaced.  The bride’s sister wrote a reflection entitled, “What Is A Marriage.”  The ceremony took place on a summer’s day at a venue that had no trees and no shade.  None.  It was near 100-degrees.  The bride’s make-up ran; the groom swayed; and the sister kept on reading.  Oh, and I later learned that the sister had recently gone through a nasty divorce.  This was her idea of group therapy!

2.     The bride asked her married sister to be matron-of-honor and her single sister to be maid-of-honor.  I didn’t think it mattered who signed the license as a witness and so I asked the first sister I found – the matron-of-honor.  On the drive home I got a call from the bride’s mother demanding to know why I had asked her married daughter to sign when “everyone” knew the single sister was supposed to sign.  The mother screamed at me, accusing me of having ruined the day for her daughter – no, not the daughter who was the bride – the daughter who was the matron-of-honor!  She told me she was sobbing at the reception.

3.     Two hours before the start of the ceremony, the maid-of-honor got into a verbal fighting match with the bride and accused her of being an alcoholic and “white trash.”  She then drove off to parts unknown – with one of the groomsmen!

4.     While it’s traditional for the mothers to sit on the aisle seats of the front rows, this  bride’s step-mom decided she wanted to take that seat and so plopped herself down before the Processional.  She refused to move.  The bride’s mother refused to sit anywhere other than the first seat of the first row.  The ceremony was delayed a solid half-hour.  I eventually coaxed the step-mom into moving.  I won’t print what I said to her, but keep in mind that my father had been a cop and my grandmother a prison guard!

5.     At the end of the ceremony, after I pronounced the couple married and they kissed, they and their wedding party were supposed to release butterflies.  They opened the boxes and––most of the butterflies were dead and the rest wouldn’t fly away.  I thought it was a disaster, but  the guests laughed and finally the bride’s butterfly flew off.  She smugly smiled, kissed her groom again and whispered, “Follow me” and off they went up the aisle.

6.     The rings were tied on a white silk pillow that was held by the bride’s four-year-old nephew.  At the appropriate time, I called the boy up and he handed the pillow to the Best Man.  I then pulled on the string holding one ring and it easily slipped off.  I then pulled on the string holding the other ring and – it pulled into a tight knot.  I couldn’t undo the knot.  The Best Man couldn’t undo the knot.  The groom couldn’t undo the knot.  The bride couldn’t undo the knot.  Everyone smiled, not sure if this was a gag.  Finally, the photographer whipped out his penknife and cut the ribbon, freeing the ring!

7.     The mother of the groom did not like her future daughter-in-law.  To her credit, she had told both her son and his fiancée that she didn’t like her!  To the couple’s credit, they invited her AND the groom told his mother that he would not tolerate her pulling any stunts.  His mother assured him that she wouldn’t.  However, ten minutes before ceremony’s start, she began to cry and the crying turned into wailing.  She sobbed so hard (because he was marrying “that one”) that the ceremony was delayed 25-minutes until she could compose herself.

8.     Then there was the Armenian dad who was devastated that his daughter was marrying a man who was not Armenian.  Two weeks before the wedding, he called and pleaded with me not to officiate the wedding.  He said, “It will kill me if my daughter marries this man!”  It was when he told me that he’d rather see her dead than married to her fiancé that I grew alarmed.  The couple hired security and it’s the only wedding I officiated where I kept wondering if I was going to show up on the local Ten O’clock News!  The bride’s father (and mother) boycotted the wedding and I still don’t know if I “killed” the man!

9.     My second all-time favorite mother story is the mother whose son did not invite her to the wedding.  He had a strained relationship with his mother and feared she’d do something to ruin his day.  She showed up at the church just as I was asking the question, “Who presents this woman. . .?”  Suddenly, standing in the church’s doorway, in the shadows, yet backlit by the sun, stood the groom’s mother.  She said nothing.  She did nothing.  She simply stood there throughout the ceremony.  Wonderfully dramatic – and creepy!

10.   And now for my #1 favorite mother story. . .the bride and groom had been together five years and were great partners.  Towards the end of their ceremony the bride’s mother stood up and walked towards me.  Puzzled,  I walked over to her and in a voice only I could hear, she said these immortal words: “Do not pronounce them husband and wife, I have reservations.”  Beyond stunned,  I smiled and said to her: “The only reservation you better have is for dinner.”  I raced back to the couple and quickly pronounced them husband & wife.  After the ceremony, I found the bride and as I gave her a big hug, she sheepishly said: “I guess I forgot to tell you about my mother.”  Duh!

What did I learn from all this?   Weddings can be whacky and unpredictable – and I can never be too prepared.  I have to be the rock for a couple and for their families and guests.

While each of the above-mentioned ten couples experienced some disappointment, annoyance, concern and puzzlement, not one of them allowed any mishap or moment of melodrama rain on the joy of their day BECAUSE each couple decided their joy was stronger than anger.

Nothing can ruin your day unless you choose to make it ruin your day.

In the face of potential disaster, you have only three options: Yell, Cry or Laugh.  You might end up doing all three – just make sure you end with the laughter!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Listening Differently On Mars And Venus

true story
When I first met with Philip and Cora (names changed) they were five months away from their wedding. In their late twenties, they’d been together since college. Philip was quiet and had no opinions about the ceremony. His catch phrase was, “I don’t care.” At one point, Cora suddenly turned on him and in a hurt tone asked, “Why don’t you care? Why don’t you ever have an opinion on anything about our wedding?” The poor guy looked equally hurt, “This is your big day; whatever you want is fine with me,” he pleaded.

I gently pointed out that this was their big day. And then Philip said something that took both Cora and me by surprise. He explained, “When we got engaged my mother told me that this is your day and that I should go along with whatever you want and that I should stay out of the planning and not get in the way.”

Well, a whole new conversation opened up and by the end of it all they were a couple determined to go on and plan their big day together!

I try mightily to avoid stereotyping either people or situations. Yet, the truth is brides and grooms stereotypically approach a wedding from very different perspectives.

I’ve never met a groom who told me he’s been dreaming of this day since he played with his first G.I. Joe doll  – and I seldom meet a bride who doesn’t show up for a meeting without a thick notebook!
It’s true that there are many aspects of wedding planning that a groom is not going to be excited about or interested in. Yet, I believe that your wedding is not some kind of themed party simply celebrating the whims of the bride.

With this is mind, here are four aspects of listening to keep in mind as you make your way through the wild and whacky world of wedding planning!

1.  When your fiancée asks, “What do you think?” she really does want an answer! I’ve met with couples where the bride asks her groom “What do you think?” and shrugging his shoulders, grunts, “Whatever you want.” No bride is ever reassured with that answer.

Here’s the thing—I don’t think you can “not care” about your wedding and still care about your marriage. You may not have a strong opinion about flowers, you may feel overwhelmed with the politics of the seating chart, but to say you “don’t care,” well that’s something entirely different. If you don’t feel strongly about some aspect of the wedding, say something like, “I don’t have a preference, so I’m happy with what you decide.” Those words will have a positive impact, rather than tossing off an “I don’t care,” which can only hurt and confuse your fiancée.

2. The ceremony had ended and the wedding party was milling about hugging and congratulating the couple. Suddenly, I overheard the six year-old flower girl and her five year-old ring-bearer cousin. The girl said to the boy, “My shoes hurt.” Walking past her, and without stopping, he said, “Then take them off.” She looked utterly stunned but then yelled out, “Hey, get back here!”

Even at five years old, the boy took a classic guy approach. Got a problem? Here’s the solution, now let’s move on. Which is why guys have a rep for being lousy listeners!

If there’s a problem, stereotypically a man will want to come up with a solution. However, often times, while a woman wants a solution, she also enjoys talking about the problem, analyzing it, and getting different kinds of feedback. For a woman, talking about the problem can be as important as solving the problem.

Before interrupting with your solution, ask your partner if she wants your take on the problem. If she says “yes,” then offer your solution. And brides, remember that men, stereotypically, can be more definitive in what they say than women often are. So, if you ask your fiancé for an opinion, be prepared for an opinion that may not be sugarcoated!

3.  I want to remind you that your fiancé can listen to you talk about the wedding for only so many hours in the day! Throughout your engagement, make sure that you and your fiancé consciously, deliberately talk about non-wedding related “stuff.” Even though you’re engaged, there really is still more to life than the wedding!

4. Women often times can be more indirect when asking for something. If you ask a guy, “Is it chilly in here?” he may not pick up on the fact that what you’re really doing is asking him to shut the window. If you need your partner to do something, ask! Don’t play games with your fiancé, especially if you haven’t given him the playbook.

And one last thing:
Let your partner know that you’ve heard them and are trying to understand their concerns and needs at that particular moment in the planning.

The most important part of listening is when you reassure the other person that you have heard what they said.  Let your partner know exactly what it is you “understand,” so that if what you’re repeating back to them is not what they meant, they can clarify.

If you don’t understand what your partner is feeling or saying, ask them to explain a bit more. This will prove to them that you’re listening and that you do care about the conversation.