How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Friday, August 28, 2015

The "Promise" Too Many Couples Forget To Make With Their Vows

My brother Peter and his wife, Beth, have been married for twenty-five years – and they are twenty-five years that they’re grateful for!  Last week I was talking with Peter and out-of-the-blue he remarked, “I can’t believe how many people I know are getting divorced.”  Sadly, I was surprised that he’s surprised.

His shock, though got me thinking about weddings (something I do a lot of).  Almost every weekend I officiate a wedding and every weekend I encounter people who are dressed to impress and ready to party – selfie-taking people who are palpably excited for “their” couple.  In light of Peter’s comment, I’ve been wondering – what is it that people are celebrating?  Is it the “forever” or is it the generosity, the courage and the hope of the couple?

Each week I stand before a couple and bear witness to their vows and as they pledge some version of “for better or for worse” I wonder if they understand what they’re actually saying.  I think most couples don’t  understand.  How could they?  We can only understand the future by living it.

Couples often ask me for advice on how to write their vows.  While I did write an earlier post on the “how,” that technique doesn’t really address the deeper question – what are you’re vows “vowing”?

In order to write your vows I think you need to reflect on these four questions.  You don’t need to say aloud in your vows the answers to these questions BUT your answers will inform what you write:
·      What would be the hardest thing that would pull the two of you apart?
·      What would be the ultimate joy you could experience as a couple?
·      What is your greatest fear for the two of you?
·      What is your greatest hope for the two of you?

The playwright Thornton Wilder, in his play The Skin Of Our Teeth, has one of the characters make this observation: “I didn't marry you because you were perfect. I didn't even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that protected them; and it wasn't our love that protected them--it was that promise.”

And so I come back to that earlier question – what is it that we’re celebrating at a wedding?  I think it’s that “promise” – the rough and tumble rawness of that promise a couple makes to each other. 

But maybe what is just as important is for each person to also take a promise to her or his own self because if you don’t make a promise to yourself, how can you make a promise to another?  
Here’s what I hope you promise your self. . .that you will. . .
·      Let no one treat you as ordinary
·      Let your home be the gateway to the world and not a hiding place
·      Feel – and not let your feelings make you a victim
·      Learn to make bold mistakes AND
·      Tame your regrets over those mistakes so that they do not overshadow the gifts of the choices you made

The poet Emily Dickinson maintained,
“That Love is all there is is all we know of Love.”
Trusting in that truth, may the world be a better place because you loved each other!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My New Fav Reading - "The Recognition"

I recently officiated a wedding at which the couple had this reading.  I wasn’t familiar with Housden, but was taken by the poignancy of his reflection – so much so that I’m sharing it here!

The Recognition                  
by Roger Housden

I have faith in the value of love’s enchantment; the rich colors the world takes on in lovers’ eyes. I believe in the tears of love, the joys of love, in the warmth in the chest that comes when we feel we have known this person all of our lives and beyond.

For all the challenges it may bring in distinguishing reality from imagination, the romance of love is one of the deepest and most integral experiences of being human. It doesn’t come on demand; rather it chooses us if it is so inclined.

A wholehearted, full-blown romantic love is one without conditions: no dowry, no big bank account, no promising job necessary. It is a gift that defies explanation.

A love like this is often called divine precisely because it comes from a region outside of our conscious minds. It is a mystery that fills us with an elation, a joy, a sense of life and meaning beyond and larger than our ordinary lives. It joins us not only to our beloved but to life as a whole, and even, if we think that way, to God.

Monday, August 10, 2015

How To Truly Personalize Your Ceremony

One night, when I was a freshman in college, I paid my grandmother a surprise visit.  When I was leaving, she slipped a twenty-dollar bill in my hand and gave me a tight hug and a big kiss.  I squirmed.  I was eighteen and too old for all that mushy stuff (but I did appreciate the money!).  She squeezed tighter and whispered, “You’ll never know how much I love you.”

Now, all these years later, I’m a wedding officiant and almost every weekend I stand before a couple and bear witness to their vows.  And each time, as I look out on the gathering of family and friends, I realize that the couple before me will probably never know just how much they are loved.

For me, a wedding ceremony is a HUGE hug that family and friends offer to the couple.  Yes, at its core, the ceremony honors and celebrates the love and commitment of the couple.  BUT, the ceremony is also that unique time to celebrate all the loves that have helped to bring a couple to that moment in time – parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends tried and true.

Couples come to me because they want a ceremony that evades the clichés and that is personalized.  More times than not, they’re uncertain as to what kind of ceremony they can have if they have no religious backgrounds or if they don’t want to incorporate the religious traditions of their families.

So, what can they do?  

Here’s the thing – the true emotional impact of a ceremony is created by the “visuals.”  The truest way to personalize your ceremony is to incorporate the people, the significant loves, who are part of the fabric of your life together.  This was brought home to me last month when I officiated the wedding of Nikki and Mark.

Mark’s family is staunch mid-West Catholic and Nikki’s is culturally Jewish.  They didn’t want a religious ceremony and, in fact, Nikki didn’t want “God” mentioned.  They did want a ceremony that had a rich texture to it.  Here’s a snapshot of what we created:

Mark’s parents escorted him down the aisle; Nikki’s parents escorted her. 

They had one reading that was offered by both fathers – and, yes, the dads failed to choke back tears! 

After my words of good cheer and encouragement (just prior to the exchange of vows), I invited both sets of parents to come up and light the tapers on either side of the Unity Candle that was set inside a protective hurricane lamp.  The lamp was on a festive table underneath a Chuppah (the Jewish side was happy to see the Chuppah and the non-Jewish side thought it was a lovely decoration).  After the parents lit the tapers, they all hugged Nikki and Mark and returned to their seats.  Then Mark and Nikki lit the Unity Candle. 

All of this was as a prelude – a moment of blessing by the families – to the Exchange of Vows.  In the light of that blessing, Nikki and Mark exchanged their vows.

Mark and Nikki had written down in booklets their own vows.  I invited one of Nikki’s grandfathers and one of Mark’s grandmothers to present the booklets to them.

The rings were presented by two other grandparents, each of whom has been married for sixty years to their respective spouse, which means the rings were presented from a combined legacy of one hundred and twenty years of married love!

After I pronounced them husband and wife, Mark broke the glass (something he suggested).

While this might sound like a lot of choreography, it actually wasn’t.  The entire ceremony, from the time I took my place until they kissed, was no more than thirty minutes – and they had a combined total of sixteen attendants (mixed sex on both sides)!

The ceremony was personal because Mark and Nikki incorporated elements that made sense to who they are as a couple and they decided to place the emphasis on family.  It was warm and gracious as it honored the sacredness of what they were doing, yet, was not “religious.”

Remember: people go to a ceremony hoping that it won’t be too long or too boring.  A personalized ceremony allows people to feel rooted and renewed and refreshed.  It’s all about providing people the opportunity to give you that big, tight “hug” – and so bless, and confirm your union!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Would You Consider A 5-Month Trial Marriage?!

Usually, I use this blog to post items that either inspire or inform.  However, I recently came across this Egyptian marriage contract from 200 B.C.E. and knew I had to post it as it blew me away! 

There is so much talk about the “institution” of marriage that we sometimes forget that the “institution” has changed over time, and from culture to culture.

This particular contract was discovered in Luxor – Egypt, not Vegas!  Historians think that the idea of a trial marriage may have been rooted in the importance Egyptians placed on having children and so the need of a wife’s early pregnancy.

From the vantage of 2015 this contract is an eye-opener!

I take thee, Taminis, daughter of Pamonthis, into my house to be my lawful wife for the term of five months. Accordingly I deposit for you in the Temple of Hathor the sum of four silver stater (coins), which will be forfeited to you if I dismiss you before the conclusion of the five months, and besides this my banker shall do something for you. But if you leave me on your own account before the end of the five months, the above sum which I have deposited shall be refunded to me.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What Makes A Marriage Worth Having

The following excerpt, “25 YEARS,” is written by Marley Klaus.  The full text can be found on her wonderful blog The Heathen Learns.  She and her husband— film, TV, and theater director Kevin Dowling— married in 1987 and have two sons.  This was written on her 25th wedding anniversary.  I share her thoughts especially because of her great insight into what makes a marriage, a marriage!

There’s this idea about romantic love, about finding your “soul mate” as that man of mine surely is, that makes us think that our lives should be entwined, enmeshed, our happiness entrusted to another. I think that idea does more to undermine good relationships than almost any other.

The underbelly of that notion is: so, if I’m not happy – and who is all the time? – it is my partner’s responsibility to at least try to make me feel better, happier. I won’t speak for other people but, in our determination to put how we felt about each other into practice, we kinda got it wrong for a while.  In the misguided attempt to make the other happier, we contorted ourselves and our lives into painful and unrecognizable pretzel shapes – or felt guilty when we didn’t or couldn’t.

We thought we were responsible for each other instead of to each other.
The result?

We had about two years of hell that stripped our relationship right down to its foundation.
I remember standing on a street, looking across the top of a car at him and thinking: I am willing to lose this but I am not willing to not be myself anymore. I was lucky. He was braver and more determined than I was. He took the first steps to break our dynamic.

At the time, it felt like he was retreating to his corner to work on his own issues, but it gave me the room to do the same. I would never, ever, ever want to go through that again (have I said “never” and “ever” enough?) however, the new relationship that was built on what remained, that foundation, that look, is everything I ever wanted and more.

Boy, I love you, I admire you, I like you and I’m grateful for you and to you for our quarter century together. . . .

What we now know is that marriage isn’t about two becoming one, 
but about learning how to be yourself in the presence of another.

That, to me, to us, is the secret of a marriage worth having.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

What Do You Value Most?

In her Oscar acceptance speech for playing British P.M. Margaret Thatcher, Meryl Streep spoke directly to her husband, saying:

“Everything I value most in our lives, you have given me.”

What a stunningly poignant thing for a person to say to their spouse! 
And so I’d like to invite you to consider these questions as you prepare for the offering of your vows:

·      Can you say the same thing to your partner?
·      What do you value most?
·      What does your partner value most?
·      What do you together value most?

And if you don’t know the answers to these questions, then WHY are you getting married to this person?!