How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

TIP 21: Talk With Your Parents



While the sentiment in the photo is lovely. . .
true story
Jeannie and Nelson were getting married at a four-star country club. Jeannie’s parents had agreed to pay for the reception. Two weeks before the wedding, her dad called to inform them that he rechecked his finances and was making changes to the menu.  Without consulting with Jeannie and Nelson, he arbitrarily changed the surf-n-turf to chopped sirloin, cancelled the wedding cake and substituted it with just ice cream.

Jeannie was devastated but too embarrassed to feel angry with her father. Nelson, on the other hand, was livid as this was not the first time her dad had pulled an inexplicably nasty stunt on them. So, he decided to call the old man’s bluff.

Without conferring with Jeannie, Nelson informed his soon-to-be father-in-law that he and Jeannie were postponing the wedding until such times as they could afford their original plans. Now it was the father’s turn to feel embarrassed.

When Jeannie found out what Nelson had done, she took all of her anger out on him. A day later, Jeannie’s dad suddenly “found” money and the menu was restored. By now, though, Jeannie and Nelson weren’t talking to each other!

Often times, the hardest conversations center on parents – yours and / or your partner’s. 
How comfortable are you talking honestly about your feelings towards your parents?  Does your partner even know how you feel about their folks?

Sanity Saver Questions ~
·      How do you handle difficult conversations with your parents? Revert back to childhood? Become passive-aggressive? Argue heatedly?
·      Have you been able to honestly talk to your parents about what you want and don’t want for your wedding?
·      Have you asked your parents for specific help in any areas?
·      What do you think are your parents’ obligations to your wedding in terms of planning and / or helping to pay?
·      What are you willing and / or prepared to do if your parents don’t like your ideas?
·      Is your wedding family-focused or friend-focused?
·      How can you show your family thanks throughout the planning process?

You and your partner will keep each other sane by being united in your vision and being willing to discuss that vision with your parents – together and individually.

This is an excerpt from my latest book –

Available on Amazon!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How To Give A Toast That Will Be Remembered For All The Right Reasons!

I recently had an email from a maid-of-honor. Jasmine wrote that she and the bride had been friends for twenty years and that she’s “feeling a little challenged with how to condense a heart filled speech into five minutes.”

I was touched by Jasmine’s love for her friend and I was impressed that she reached out to me for guidance. Jasmine is right to be nervous! The thought of standing in front of friends, families and strangers, and pouring your heart out (or trying to be funny) can be unnerving. And thanks to social media toasts last longer than centerpieces.

A toast is such a unique form of public speaking. While everyone thinks they know what a toast is supposed to do it’s clear that few people know how to give a toast that is remembered for all the right reasons. Even Pippa Middleton had to endure a wretched toast offered by her husband’s off-key best man!

If you are the maid (man) of honor or the best man (woman) then one of your responsibilities is to offer a toast at the reception.

So, what to do?

Recognize that giving a toast is an honor.  The toast is your gift to the couple. Therefore, the toast is about them – not you! This is not an opportunity to lay claim to knowing the bride or groom better than anyone else in the room. The bride asked Jasmine to give a toast because of their twenty year old friendship – not to tell twenty years worth of stories!

A toast is your gift to the couple. Therefore, it is not a roast. It is not an opportunity to embarrass the couple. It is not the time to practice your audition for The Comedy Club. Avoid cursing and off-color humor (leave that to the bachelor/bachelorette party).
One of the tricky parts to a toast is recognizing that your audience goes beyond your peers – it is a cross section of generations. Respect that reality.

Remember – the couple will remember your toast on every anniversary. Do you want them to smile or groan as they remember your words?

And if you’re jealous of the couple or if you’re in love with the bride or groom – make sure you go to therapy before writing/giving your toast!

Prepare! Prepare because you can’t wing it. Your toast must be written down. No one expects you to have it memorized BUT you want to have the opening lines and the closing lines memorized so as to deliver them with spot-on energy.

You need to start working on your toast as soon as the couple invites you to gift their celebration with that toast. A few days before the wedding is not enough time. And you don’t want to start preparing the night before as you stumble into your hotel room after the rehearsal dinner.

Practice. Practice. Practice with a trusted friend. Play around with it. A good toast will go through at least three drafts.

Realize that you are toasting the couple. If you are the maid of honor, you are toasting the bride and groom and not simply telling everyone how much you love the bride. If you are the best man, you are toasting the couple and not simply telling everyone what a great guy the groom is. This is the trickiest part of a toast – you start off talking about “your” person and end up toasting them as a couple.

Understand that although you’re toasting the couple, the real audience is the room – family and friends. What do you want them to know about the couple? What do you want them to feel?

Follow these steps to craft a toast that will be remembered for all the right reasons:

1. Introduce yourself in two – three sentences, establishing your relationship with the couple. Add some lightness and humor. For instance, Jasmine could reference that she and the bride have been friends for twenty years, since grammar school. PAUSE. “But, sorry folks, she has paid me well to keep her secrets!”

2. Share memory(s) of what “your” person was like prior to meeting their spouse. Again, this is a place for good-natured humor – not roasting. Nor is this an opportunity to go down the long, winding road of memory lane. There is no need to tell ALL your memories. Your toast should be NO MORE THAN 3 minutes. You’re not introducing a Lifetime Achievement Award!

3. Now pivot in your remarks to the new spouse with words like – “and then he/she met you and everything changed!” Again, you can inject some humor, for instance commenting on how once your friend, who was also your roommate, starting dating your own life changed because he/she started keeping the apartment cleaner.

4. Then share what you observed as the two of them grew closer together. Share a snapshot anecdote (not a photo album!) of a time when you realized – “hey, these two  belong together – how wonderful.”

5. Now it’s time to bring your toast to a head. Offer a wish – be specific in your words and avoid clichés. Rather than saying “I wish you joy,” say something like, “Of all the things I could wish you tonight, I especially wish you a lifetime of joy like I saw in your eyes earlier as you said your vows.”

6. Now, you do the actual toast. Turn and look about the room – hold up your glass – say something like, “Family and friends please join me in raising your glasses.”
Dramatically turn to the couple and boldly say, “To x and x – happiness tonight and forever!”
Raise high your glass!
The room will explode with love and cheer!

·      Don’t rush it. Speak slowly and loudly for everyone to hear.
·      Note cards?  Sure. However, know your talk as well as you know Happy Birthday (a great suggestion made  by Chris Anderson who founded TED Talks).
·      Be sober.

When giving a toast your job is to gather up all the love in the room and be the voice of all present. That is your gift to the couple – and it’s better than any toaster oven!

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Lover's Great Responsibility

Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bride Quote Of The Week


Of my own accord I present myself, 
my days, my nights and my life.
I present them freely and willingly
because they cannot be better spent 
than in your company.
Melissa Richard to Frank Oteri

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Dark Harsh Mystery of LOVE


Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble
taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are
or who the other might be,
binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of
and have carefully avoided investigating.
Alain de Bottonmay

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Strength That Comes From Your Vows


I ____take you ____to be my wife/husband.

I promise to be true to you
In good times and in bad,
In sickness and in health.
I will love you and honor you,
All the days of my life.
This is my solemn vow.

I recently ran into Danielle – her mom, Becky, is a good friend of mine. Danielle’s youngest child, Declan, is six months old. About six weeks ago Danielle noticed that Declan wasn’t using his left hand and was overcompensating with his right hand. She took him to the pediatrician and so began the most hellish 24 hours of her life.

Making a long story way shorter, within the span of 24 hours, Danielle and her husband Ryan were told that Declan might have a brain tumor, then they were told he might have cerebral palsy until finally they were informed Declan had had a stroke while in the womb. His left-side motor skills were impacted.

While the prognosis is good for the long haul, for Danielle and Ryan it has been an indescribable roller-coaster of emotions.

And yet Danielle told me that she and Ryan are stronger now than at any point in their relationship. They know they will survive – and thrive.

I’ve said it here in this blog many times before – it is always such an honor to bear witness to a couple’s vows. I’m in awe as I witness a couple make that leap of faith. BUT, I also know that no couple fully comprehends just what it is they’re vowing. How could they?

How could any couple truly appreciate what those bold words mean, “in good times and in bad; in sickness and in health”?

Danielle and Ryan didn’t fully understand what they were vowing. BUT they are grateful they made those vows BECAUSE it is those vows that are giving them the strength they need now for Declan and for each other.

My hope for each of my couples is that their vows will be
that wellspring of courage – and joy!


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bride's Vow Quote Of The Week #2

photo: Sorensen Foto

"I vow to know and receive you 
deeply and with compassion."

I jotted these down after a ceremony and forgot to include the bride’s name.
Alas, these words are from an Anonymous Bride

Saturday, April 15, 2017

8 Things I Know For Sure About Weddings

photo: jophotoonline

8 Things I Know For Sure About Weddings

I have officiated over one thousand wedding ceremonies. More times than not, couples inevitably tell me that they’re worried they’re going to ball their eyes out.

I laugh and encourage them not to worry because my experience has been that the brides and grooms who say they will cry often times don’t while the ones who say they’re not going to cry end up needing a paper bag to breathe into! I say, “cry!” – make-up can be reapplied.

But why are weddings such an emotional experience? Maybe it’s because a wedding, in its essence, is a breathtaking act of generosity and courage.

After all these years, after all these weddings, here are the 8 Things I Know For Certain About Weddings, no matter the size of the guest list, no matter the faith, culture or sexual orientation of the couple.

1.     Every couple has a story AND every bride and groom IS a story.
We need a witness to our lives. In a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things – all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’
Shall We Dance?

I love listening to a couple tell me the story of how they met because in the telling I get a glimpse of who each person is. In listening to how they were surprised by love, listening to why they are grateful to their partner, I get a glimpse into the story of who they are.

I marvel at how all couples are similar AND how all are vastly different. Each has a story of how they got to the point of planning a wedding with this person out of all the billions of people in the world.

Because a wedding celebrates the co-mingling of stories I feel inspired and cheered, challenged and moved, and, yes, sometimes, just plain puzzled!

2.  The planning process gives clear evidence of what the strengths and weaknesses are of the couple – as a couple.
To fall in love is easy,
But it is a hard quest worth making
To find a comrade
Through whose steady presence
One becomes the person one desires to be.

Anna Louise Strong

No matter how intimate or how large the guest list, a wedding presses buttons that trigger everything from anxious insecurity to indescribable joy. And if you pay attention, all those stressors, all those reactions to those stressors, indicate who the person you’re marrying is at this point in time.

The quality of how you communicate during the planning reveals the quality of your life after the honeymoon!

3.  A wedding speaks to the core aspects of a couple’s identity – family, culture and religion.
Explore and discover that which is within.
When we find ourselves, we are more easily found by others.
Lao Tzu

In order to say “I Do!” there needs to be an “I” and the planning of a wedding invites, challenges and demands that each person ask, “Who Am I?” in relation to their place within a family, within a culture and within (or without) a belief system. What have you incorporated from each? What have you rejected? And how has all of that gone into making the “I” who will say “I Do”?

4.  A wedding calls forth memories – good, bad and glorious.
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’.

A wedding is a grateful celebration for the past. From the moment of the proposal on up to the last dance, accurately or inaccurately remembered memories trigger emotions. And all those memories influence how you react to stress, along with what you expect and ask of your partner, your family and your circle of friends.

5.  A wedding challenges a couple’s relationships with family and friends.
The best part of life is when your family become your friends
and your friends become your family.
Danica Whitfield

People can forget that the wedding is not about them. People you thought you could rely upon disappear because of their own mystifying reasons. People on your “B List” generously surprise you. Parents speak and act out of love laced with protective fear in ways that can confuse, exasperate or delight. Parents want the celebration to reflect a reality that simply doesn’t exist or that doesn’t match the reality of who you are as a couple. Weddings challenge your capacity for surprise.

6.  A wedding is an act of faith.
However richly inspired by love,
Marriage is a high wire act
That is usually attempted by two nervous wrecks
Who just go for it,
 Reeling with bliss and blind with the hots. 
The rest is work, faith and destiny.


Each of you only knows so much of who you are today. There are aspects of “you” that you’ve not yet explored and figured out – and so it is with your partner. The great act of faith is that you say, “I’m going to create a future with you. Of all the people with whom I could create a future, I choose you because you have, united with me, what I need to create a life-giving future – for me, for us.” Because we can’t predict the future a marriage is a glorious high wire act.

7.  A wedding challenges a couple to ask what they want from and for their own life.
Love is our true destiny.  We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it in another. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. Whoever loves is more alive and more real than when they did not love.
Thomas Merton

If you don’t have goals and dreams and hopes, then why bother getting married? The great gift of marriage is that it gives you the safety to become who you desire to become – provided you and your partner have shared with each other and have already learned how to encourage those goals, dreams and hopes!

8.  A wedding allows us to fulfill our collective, innate need to celebrate.
There are only two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Ritual (religious or not) grounds us and helps us make sense of life. In a world seemingly gone mad, a wedding has the power to reassure us that life is good – and worthy of our best. Every wedding reminds us of the lasting truth stated by Emily Dickinson:
That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love.

Given these 8 certainties, is it any wonder that we cry at weddings?!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Groom Quote Of the Week 3


“In the days leading up to the wedding, I’ve felt like I’m wading into a pool of joy and I don’t know the depth of the joy yet.”

Nathaniel Peters of his marriage to Barbara Jane Sloan

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

OMG! Who Has the Rings?!

photo: @brandonkiddphoto

I recently was at a networking event for wedding professionals where I met up with Lindsay Longacre, founder of LVL Events, one of SoCal’s premier event planning and design companies. Lindsay is one of the reasons why I love officiating weddings – because I get to work with some amazingly good and talented professionals!

Lindsay told me that she recently referred to one of my ceremonies in an Industry presentation she had given. It’s a story I’d forgotten about, but one worth sharing.

Scott and Shannon were having an outdoor ceremony in a venue that was casual chic by the ocean. They’re a fun and funny couple and so were their guests, families – and wedding party.

Their vows brought tears all around.
And then I turned to the best man for the rings. He looked perplexed and shrugged. I was not amused, but gave a forced smile. Still – no rings. With an even more forced smile, I whispered, “Dude, I really need the rings – now!” Alarmed, he loudly whispered, “I really don’t have them!”

I was stunned.

Turns out, the rings were back in Shannon’s hotel room!

I made a joke (don’t remember exactly what I said) and we went on with the ceremony.

Lindsay, as the event planner, was embarrassed she’d forgotten about the rings (that rare, once in a blue moon moment) and I was annoyed with my self for also having forgotten to check for the rings before ceremony start. I’d been distracted, though, because a couple approached me about fifteen minutes before the ceremony and reminded me that ten years before I had done their ceremony!

After the ceremony I had scheduled a meeting with a couple at a nearby Starbucks. I went to my meeting and the best man went to the hotel. Later, I returned to the reception and before the salad was served, Shannon and Scott exchanged rings.

Everyone loved the sweetness of the moment. The exchange of rings was even more special because of the unusual circumstances.

Had their ceremony been ruined? No. It just had a “different” twist.

Remember – 
focus on the magic and not the perfection of your celebration.
People love magic more than perfection!

Sunday, April 2, 2017


Congrats to Rewa and Hunter! 
They are the winning couple for Brides Live Wedding 2017.

I'm honored to be their officiant 
and am thrilled to again work with the great team @BRIDES 
and the ever wonderful Brooke Keegan Special Events !!

Groom Quote Of The Week #2

“Together we will leave the world a better place.”

Kirk Spahn vows to Jennifer Alden

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Do You Know Your Partner's Answers To These 25 Questions?


Flip through any wedding magazine and most likely you’ll come across an article with a title such as: “8 Nitty-Gritty Must-Have Conversations Before You Walk Down the Aisle.”

The article will challenge you to reflect on the conversational health of your relationship with a list of questions such as:

·      How do we feel about having kids?
·      How will we handle our money?
·      Who cleans the toilet?
·      What about the in-laws?
·      What don’t we agree on?
·      How do we keep the sparks flying?
·      What’s our arguing style?
·      How will we balance work and play?

These are essential questions and my hope is that a couple has answered these questions before coming to discuss the ceremony with me. If they haven’t, then I offer communication coaching that helps a couple hone their skills.

The novelist Andre Malroux claimed that, “A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short.” I like that! So then the question is: what do you talk about?

Well, here’s a list I put together of 25 “non-nitty gritty” questions that are fun, silly, intriguing and revealing.  In some respects, these questions are just as important as the “serious” questions I posed above.

How many of these questions have you asked each other?

How many answers do you know?

Happy talking!

1.         What has been one of the most memorable experiences in your life?
2.         What is an experience that challenged you but ultimately made you a better person?
3.         How have you touched another person’s life (for the good)?
4.         What do you think is the weirdest thing about life in general?
5.         What is one way in which you’re mean to your self?
6.         What is the best compliment you’ve ever received? 
7.         What is the best compliment you’ve ever given?
8.         What is the worst insult you’ve ever received?
9.         What is the worst insult you’ve ever given?
10.       What is the best text you ever got?  The worst?
11.       What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
12.       What are five things you’re grateful for?
13.       What was your favorite childhood toy?
14.       What was your favorite childhood game?
15.       What was the best movie you ever saw as a kid?
16.       How are you different today from when you were in 5th grade?
17.       What is the biggest mistake you ever made?
18.       What is the failure you’re most proud of – because of what you learned from it?
19.       What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?
20.       What are five silly things you’d like to try at least once?
21.       What are your five favorite words and why?
22.       What is one thing you don’t understand about yourself?
23.       What are you most self-conscious about?
24.       Who or what do you find intimidating?
25.       Who is the smartest person you know and why are they so smart?