How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Thanksgiving Memory

Thanksgiving.  I’m sitting at a long table, filled with deep-down good people.  Anthony & Melissa have gathered us into their home.  Across from me is a beautiful Indian woman.  She has a disarming smile and a hearty laugh.  She turns those clichés into something real.

She asks me what I do and when I say that I’m a wedding officiant, she becomes excited and asks: “What do you think is needed to make a marriage a success?”  I hesitate because I sense her question comes from a place of disappointment.

So, I tell her: “listening.”  It’s both a true and safe answer.  Although I believe this is the key communication skill, somehow, when I give her this answer, it doesn’t seem adequate.

I glance at Anthony & Melissa.  I flash on other couples who nourish me and I wonder—what makes each of their marriages a “success?”  These couples constantly support each other, but that, too, seems like a worn-out answer.

And then I flash on a moment Anthony & Melissa shared earlier.  They’d just finished setting-up this Tuscany-like family style table.  I came into the garden and glimpsed them in a warm, hugging embrace. 

Exhausted from the preparations, they simply fell into each other’s arms—and smiled.  It was not so much a sexual embrace as it was intimately confirming that: We did it.

My grandmother once  told me that real love is not those champagne moments filled with fireworks.  Rather, real love is a reassuring whisper in the dark of night.  And that is what I witnessed in the garden—the intimacy of a reassuring whisper.  This is our feast.  In our home.  Built on all the moments you helped me and frustrated me. Built on all your surprises that both delighted me and puzzled me.  This night is our gift to these wonderful and wacky people, who, for better or for worse, are a part of our home.

As I looked down the table, with all its mismatched chairs and mismatched guests, I thought: if we can’t give thanks for this moment, what can we give thanks for?

And then, the woman again asked me, “Is that all that’s needed for a successful marriage—listening to the other?”

I look around the garden and think—no, listening is not enough.  Rather, here, this table, this is what makes for a “successful marriage.”  This table is the gift of two people dedicated and pledged to creating a life—a life-giving life—that rises above the rituals of their individual pasts.  Pasts filled with dysfunctions and secrets and questions.  A dedication that lets this day swirl with good, hearty questions: “Do you have enough?  Do you need more?  Eat up.  Don’t be shy.  Are you sure you’ve had enough?”  Questions asked while serving and laughing.

What makes for a successful marriage?  In that moment, as I flash on my family of couples, I’m reminded that it is the generosity with which two people juggle the hundreds of little things that go into the routine of daily life.  For it’s the sum total of those tasks and interactions that allow my coupled friends to make their home in each other, and there to find comfort and safety in the reassuring hospitality of each other.

As the table is cleared by all of us who want Melissa & Anthony to relax I remember the movie, Babette’s Feast.  It’s the story of two pious sisters living in a stark and dreary Denmark of the 19th century.  When their young maid wins 10,000 francs in a lottery, she puts on a French feast.  The sisters invite their elderly friends, each of whom is resistant to the overwhelming smells and tastes.  And at the very end of the evening, the General, a former suitor of one sister declares, “I now know in this beautiful world of ours, all things are possible.”

I look around and wonder—are all things possible?  Tomorrow we wake with our familiar demons.  Melissa & Anthony return to the routine of kids, pets, and work.  But this meal reminds us of what is possible.  And without each other, this feast would not have been possible.  No table.  No food.  No nourishment.  Not like this.  Not here.  Not with these people.

Is it too little to say that here—in this night of reassuring whispers—here can be found the answer for what makes a marriage successful?

Your wedding is like this Thanksgiving meal and its “perfection” comes not merely from all going “smoothly.”  No, it comes from all your guests leaving feeling nourished.  Feeling full from the reminder that life is good and worthy of all that is good and true within us.

You take each other as husband & wife and in that taking you give to family and friends a “loud,” reassuring whisper that all is possible, as you urge them on––eat, have more, don’t be shy!  In the doing of this you become an “I.”  And in the becoming of an “I” you are able to do the giving of your  “I Do.”

Your “I Do” 
celebrates your commitment to being a generous person.
Happy Thanksgiving! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Paris – Today and Always

“Try as you will, you cannot annihilate
that eternal relic of the human heart – love.”

Victor Hugo

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What I Want Your Guests To Remember From The Ceremony

Last Saturday I officiated the wedding of Stephen & Monique, a couple who are friends of Steve & Katie, a couple whose wedding I officiated last year.  Stephen had been one of Steve’s groomsmen and now Steve was one of Stephen’s.  In fact, Stephen’s other three groomsmen had been groomsmen for Steve, as all the guys had been in the same fraternity at LMU.

I wanted to make sure that at Stephen and Monique’s ceremony I didn’t say any of what I had said at Steve and Katie’s wedding.  But not only could Stephen and Monique not remember what I had said, not even the groomsmen could remember! 

Each reassured me that although they couldn’t remember my words, they’d been touched by the ceremony and my sentiments.

After the ceremony, I asked Katie, last year’s bride, if I had repeated what I’d said at her wedding.  She laughed as she, too, couldn’t remember what I had said.  All she knew was that she felt as refreshed at this wedding as she had at her own.

When I coach professionals in public speaking, I remind them that all sorts of studies confirm that after a presentation people forget 50% of what they heard by the time they get home and they will forget 50% of the 50% by the next day.  I stress that before giving a presentation, a speaker needs to know what it is they want their audience to remember.

A wedding is a unique type of presenting and this weekend I was reminded of what I sometimes lose sight of – family and friends will not remember my exact words, but they will remember the feeling and tone I create – they will remember the experience I create.

I recently met with a couple who are getting married next year.  When I asked them if they know what they want or don’t want in their ceremony, they told me about a boring wedding they’d attended.  While they couldn’t remember what the officiant had said, they remembered how the ceremony had a disjointed feel about it, how nothing that was being done or even said made sense.  They felt like they were simply observers, onlookers at an odd event.

Another couple I recently met with originally were going to marry last year but with less than a month to go they called it off.  They’re now at a place where they know they are necessary in each other’s life and are ready to marry in a way they were not the first time.  To my surprise, they told me that they couldn’t stand the officiant they had hired, but they didn’t care as he was cheap and that was their priority. 

The bride shared that now the ceremony is the most important part of their wedding day, but she doesn’t want to be the center of attention and she doesn’t want the ceremony to be long.  She does, though, want it to be meaningful.

So what is this “thing” we know as a wedding ceremony?
Strip away the clichés, religious and civil, strip away the pomp and circumstance, and what you’re left with is – an exquisite moment in time.

A ceremony is the acknowledging and affirming and blessing the simple and lovely miracle of these two persons, alive on earth at the same moment, pledging to live all the remaining moments of life together.

Despite its power, or maybe because of its power, a ceremony is a fragile experience.  It’s not a vehicle for lecturing or venting, rather, it’s a moment in time in which everyone present does something out of the ordinary – they give thanks for the brave generosity of two people.

Maybe it’s because it is so simple that a ceremony is so tricky to execute.

Last month, October, I officiated eleven weddings that together had over one thousand guests.  Given the opportunity to speak to a thousand people was a privilege I cherish.  But, now, I wonder about all those wedding guests.  What will they remember of the ceremony?  What do I want them to remember?

While I’ll never know what they remember, here’s what I hope they will remember:
·      That they were part of an invited group who witnessed something extraordinary – the pledging of love between two people – love faithful, protective and sturdy.
·      That despite the fact that life can be exhausting – life is good and worthy of our best – and because they joined in the feast, they will continue to live life and not slog through it.
·      That we need one another – whoever that “another” may be, so that we can live with generosity and courage.

Maybe, though, all I need them to remember, all I want them to remember, is this –
that they experienced a moment where they felt valued and appreciated because they valued and appreciated a couple who said “yes” to life in all its messy, uncertain glory.