My 10 Most Beautiful Ceremony Moments, Pt. 2

You meet thousands of people and none of them really touch you. 
And then you meet one person, and your life is changed. 
Forever.
 
Jamie, Love and Other Drugs

When people learn that I officiate weddings, inevitably they ask me, “what was your oddest wedding experience?” I’ve had many an odd experience (check out two of my more recent posts). 

BUT

Seldom do people ask me, “what was your most beautiful wedding moment?”

I’ve officiated many ceremonies that I could dub “fave.” Beautiful, though, is a different dubbing. It’s a moment that made me realize I was standing in the middle of sheer beauty, mystery and life.

Here are 5 more of 10 such moment memories. . .

  1. The sight of a confident, of-so-happy 73-year-old first-time bride walk down the aisle to her groom, a blubbering mess.
  • The groom was Persian Muslim and the bride was Israeli Jewish. They waited 15-years to win over their families to their love. And they did. We stood beneath a Chuppah and to the side was the Sofreh Table. Honey, wine, sugar, bountiful blessings. Courage and generosity in abundance. Breathtaking and humbling in a flash.
  • The bride asked her 75-year-old grandmother and the groom asked his 80-year-old grandmother to serve as their flower “girls.” Never have rose petals been scattered with such exuberance and joy and pride and life.
  • The couple hosted their wedding near Joshua Tree Park at a 1970’s style resort owned by the bride’s family. Guests sat on bales of hay nestled in one of the few shady spots on the property. The groom and I were in place. There was no wedding party. The dj began the Processional music – Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokoviev. The bride and her dad started their walk a distance away, wending through a path bordered by bales of hay. It was so hot the air really did shimmer and as the music filled the desert it looked like she was walking on air. Simply ethereal. 
  • Standing before my goddaughter Meredith and her husband Cole as they gifted each other with their vows. From the corner of my eye I caught sight of Meredith’s parents whose own wedding I officiated over 30 years ago. A beautiful wedding moment – Because.

BONUS: Any time a bride processes to the music from Lakme Flower Duet!   

Are you thinking of writing personal vows to each other?

If so, I invite you to check out my book –

How to Write Your Vows: Giving Voice to What Is Deep Within

        

My 10 Most Beautiful Ceremony Moments, Pt. 1

The unexpected is always upon us.
Chloe / The Feast of Love

When people learn that I officiate weddings, inevitably they ask me, “what was your oddest wedding experience?” I’ve had many an odd experience (check out two of my more recent posts). 

BUT

Seldom do people ask me, “what was your most beautiful wedding moment?”

I’ve officiated many ceremonies that I could dub “fave.” Beautiful, though, is a different dubbing. It’s a moment that made me realize I was standing in the middle of sheer beauty, mystery and life.

Here are 5 of 10 such moment memories. . .

  • The bride and groom were Chinese-American. They did not want to do a traditional Tea Ceremony for their families and so we adapted a modified ritual into their ceremony. The bride’s mother had Altzheimer’s and only intermittently recognized her daughter. The tenderness with which the bride offered tea to her mother was breath-catching.
  • Brian and Leah invited his 91-year-old grandfather, who had been married 71-years, to present the rings. This was a stab-me-in-the heart moment.
  • Molly and her dad walked down the aisle beaming. When they reached the first row, they stopped, he turned and kissed her, whispering, “I love you”. He then stepped over to Missy, Molly’s soon-to-be wife, kissed her and whispered, “I love you.” An exquisite moment reminding us all that life really is that simple.
  • The bride was Mexican Catholic and the groom was Jewish, from Philadelphia. At a remote resort an hour outside Mexico City, I stood with them underneath a Chuppah, and to the side was a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After exchanging vows and rings, they presented their mothers with roses, as the bride’s cousin, a Mexican actor who starred in the movie “Like Water For Chocolate,” sang Ave Maria. It was a goose-bump moment because of the sheer beauty of these good people, coming in faith and hope and love to a remote village so as to transcend all that could pull them apart.  
  • The Bride was Muslim, though not observant. She wore a white dress in which she looked like a ballerina. Her mom wore a joyful, colorful hijab. I marveled at both beautiful women bound by a devotion that transcended faith and culture allowing for love to be transcendent.

Working On Your Wedding Vows?!

I just came across these three stab-me-in-the-heart quotes which you may want to weave into your own vows!

10 Most “What The?!” Wedding Moments, Part 2

It is a curious thought, 
but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous 
that you realize just how much you love them.
 
 Agatha Christie

When people learn that I officiate weddings, inevitably they ask me, “what was your oddest wedding experience?” I’ve had many an odd experience and inevitably people say, “you should write a book!” I probably should. For now, though, I’ve written this post in which I highlight ten of the most odd wedding moments I’ve encountered. . .here’s Part 2. . .

Enjoy!

  • Writing vows is always challenging, if not stressful. How do you put into words what is so deep in your heart? One of my bride’s solved the issue by asking her Maid of Honor to write her vows for her. Only problem, the Maid of Honor had never met the groom and wrote the wrong name in the vows.
  • Not to be outdone, there was the groom who had not written out his personal vows. He reassured me that it was all “in his head.” I refused to believe there was anything inside his head and begged him to jot down his thoughts. He reluctantly agreed. Later, as he nervously awaited his bride to process down the aisle, he wiped his forehead with his pocket-square handkerchief. When it came time for the vows, he again whipped out his pocket-square – on which he had written his vows. Only problem – because he had earlier wiped his forehead, his vows were smudged beyond recognition.
  • The groom told me he was a hunter and that he reluctantly agreed to have his wedding on opening day of hunting season. I was nervous at the of the ceremony when the couple released doves as I hoped they’d make it home safely!
  • The couple was insistent there be no mention of God in the ceremony. No problem. They emailed me a reminder – no God. No problem. Really! String Quartet starts playing the processional. I was gobsmacked when the bride walked down the aisle to the strains of – “Ave Maria” – one of the most religious pieces of music ever composed as it honors Mary, who is revered as the Virgin Mother of – God!

  • Towards the end of the ceremony, the bride’s mother suddenly stood-up and began walking towards me. I left the couple and met her. In a voice only I could hear, she said, “Do not pronounce them husband and wife, I have reservations.” Although stunned, I smiled and said, “The only reservations you better have are for dinner.” I hurried back to the couple and quickly finished the ceremony. Afterwards, I found the bride, gave her a hug and asked if she was okay. She smiled and said, “I guess I forgot to tell you about my mother.”

If you want tips on how to communicate in smart, healthy ways with your partner – during wedding planning and beyond – 

check out my book, 

How to Plan Your Wedding AND Stay Sane!

OR –

Treat you and your partner to a communications coaching session with me. 

Click HERE for details!

10 Most “What The?!” Wedding Moments, Part 1

We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, 
and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, 
we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness 
and call it love.
 
Robert Fulghum

When people learn that I officiate weddings, inevitably they ask me, “what was your oddest wedding experience?” I’ve had many an odd experience and inevitably people say, “you should write a book!” I probably should. For now, though, I’ve written this post in which I highlight ten of the most odd wedding moments I’ve encountered. . .

Enjoy!

  1. There are different ways for rings to be presented to the couple. Ring bearers are cute but it takes a brave couple willing to let a 4-year old carry rings that have cost thousands of dollars. It’s often customary for the Best Man / Person to hold both rings, though it’s becoming more common for the Best and the Maid/Person of Honor to present the rings. BUT – the oddest was when the bride’s cousin, a professional Belly Dancer, presented the rings while doing a belly dance with a sword balanced on her head!
  • It was a scorching hot summer day. The ceremony was outdoors at a venue that had a panoramic view of Los Angeles. What it didn’t have was – shade. The bride’s sister was invited to read a poem. How lovely. BUT – the sister instead opted to write a meditation on “what is marriage?” The reflection was three pages, single spaced. It quickly became apparent to all that the reflection had been written in a state of disillusionment about marriage as her “words of wisdom” were dreary and cautionary. The bride’s mascara started to run, the guests grew restless and my black suit jacket became soaked in sweat. Afterwards, I learned that the sister had just gone through a bitter divorce from her cheating husband!
  • The couple decided to host their wedding at the house they had bought and were having renovated. Bride and groom had each been married before. The groom had a young adult daughter and the bride had a son in high school and a daughter in middle school. I arrived to the tarp-covered setting to find the bride’s daughter huddled in the corner sobbing. Turns out, her mother only told her about the wedding that morning! The daughter didn’t like her soon-to-be step-dad.
  • The groom told me that he was a musician and that he wanted to surprise his bride by singing his personal vows. He had forgotten to tune his guitar prior to the ceremony and he was so nervous that his voice cracked and he blanked on a portion of the “vow lyrics.” Achy-breaky heart, indeed!
  • I will never understand a wedding from a bride’s p.o.v. – especially that of the bride who hired two “bridesmaids” so as to have symmetry with the groomsmen. She believed symmetry was important for a good Instagram look. This was also the bride who asked me to make the ceremony as long as possible because she had spent a significant amount of money on the ceremony arch and wanted to get her money’s worth of time in front of it!

If you want tips on how to communicate in smart, healthy ways with your partner – during wedding planning and beyond – 

check out my book, 

How to Plan Your Wedding AND Stay Sane!

OR –

Treat you and your partner to a communications coaching session with me. 

Click HERE for details!

How To Stay Sane While Planning Your Wedding

I love my mother, but she’s driving me crazy.

The stress is too much; I’m ready to elope.

I can’t believe the nerve of some of my guests!

I’m trying to please everyone, but. . .

Whatever she wants is fine with me. I’m staying out of it.

I’m worried it won’t be perfect.

I’m not sure – is it okay to. . .

These are some of the all-time most popular laments I’ve heard from couples.

Planning for a wedding is unlike any other experience you’ll have and there really is no way to prepare for it. How you communicate during the planning of your wedding will determine how you handle the stress of it all as well as how you communicate in the months and years after your wedding.

true story

At the birthday party of a friend, I met David and Paula (names changed), a couple who had just celebrated their first wedding anniversary. David and his family are culturally Jewish while Paula is agnostic. Her father, though, is an atheist and her mother Roman Catholic. They told me that while planning their wedding they were quickly overwhelmed with the politics of it all.  

After a run-in with his family over their decision not to have a Chuppah, they realized the sanest thing they could do for each other was to work through each issue as it came along—prioritizing the details from most to least important. 

When I connect with a couple a week or so before their wedding, I usually find them to be both excited and exhausted. They’re excited because “the” day is near at hand.  And they’re exhausted because of all the demands and stress they never imagined they’d encounter during the planning of their “big day.” Here are. . .

8 core truths in mind to keep in mind so as to feel less dazed and confused during planning

  1. You are a couple. Protect each other. Is your mother or some other relative or friend complaining about “that person” you’re marrying?  The time to set boundaries is now – not after your wedding.  Remember – we train people how to treat us.  And “train” is not too strong a word.  
  • You are a couple. You are not victims. Take responsibility for your wants, needs, wishes, feelings and choices. All of these have consequences. With courage, embrace these responsibilities and consequences. This is the only way you can honor and protect each other.
  • You are a couple. And your family members are consistent. No one is going to change.  Be prepared for all those old familiar buttons being pushed.
  • You are a couple. Again, I say—establish boundaries. You are no longer a child. You are not a pair of children playing house. People owe you respect. Do what is needed to receive that respect. 
    • say “no” when needed
    • understand you cannot please everyone
    • respect your right to feelings
    • recall that you cannot change anyone
    • refuse to be taken advantage of
  • You are a couple. You are each other’s home. And from that place of home, you may have to have conversations with family or friends that are “sticky.” Keep the following in mind:
    • do not keep things bottled up inside
    • speak from a place of “I” – do not begin with “you this” and “you that”
    • do not accuse, do not yell, do not be sarcastic
    • make it safe for you and the other – ask if you can talk with them about the issue that is troubling you
    • speak assertively – not aggressively 
    • resist becoming defensive – take responsibility for your share of the situation without assuming a posture of guilt
    • make sure you are speaking about the “right” issue – is it a particular experience or is it a pattern of behavior you want to speak to? 
    • focus on what it is you want from the conversation and the person – is this person capable of giving you want you want?
  • You are a couple. Whatever challenges one of you may encounter see them as being shared by the two of you.
  • You are a couple. Remind each other of your love.
  • You are a couple.  Laugh your heads off.  

If you want tips on how to communicate in smart, healthy ways with your partner – during wedding planning and beyond – 

check out my book, 

How to Plan Your Wedding AND Stay Sane!

OR –

Treat you and your partner to a communications coaching session with me. 

Click HERE for details!

What Are You Looking For In Your Partner?

As I continue to go through my files of saved wedding tidbits, I came across this quote whose author I don’t know (obviously, though, a very smart person!)

When I read this, the first thing that popped into my head was – how ironic that couples want the celebration of this “chemistry” to be “perfect!”

One of the tests of finding the right person is to ask ourselves if this is the particular form of selfishness and egotism we can live with. Considering the difficulties of marriage, we might pose the question on a grander scale and ask if this is the particular form of insanity we can live with.

A sign of possible success is our ability to answer in the affirmative. It means the chemistry is right, and also that we are looking not for perfection in our partner but for a mutual exploration of imperfections.

But there’s more. . .

Are you able to make the vow to be faithful in your shared and “mutual exploration of imperfections?” 

WOW!

Are you thinking of writing personal vows to each other?

If so, I invite you to check out my book –

How to Write Your Vows: Giving Voice to What Is Deep Within

     

Wise Words for Your Vows

I’ve been going through my files and came across this quote I had tucked away. I don’t know who made this observation. Obviously, though, it comes from a wise person!

In a marriage we must relate to the person we have before us while keeping in mind the ideal to whom we made the vows, who may at the time, bear no resemblance at all to what we are seeing and hearing.

In a successful marriage we do not get to choose between them.

THIS is the person to whom you are making your vow. . .

May you both vow to keep each other mutually honest, relevant, authentic and alive.

Are you thinking of writing personal vows to each other?

If so, I invite you to check out my book –

How to Write Your Vows: Giving Voice to What Is Deep Within

  

A Letter to Parents Disappointed That Their Child Is Not Having a Church Wedding

Do we trust God to act in all the events in our lives

or only the ones that meet our approval?

    Barbara Brown Taylor

I originally posted this “letter” back in 2019. Recently, a young woman in Scotland came across it and shared it with her parents who were not happy with her decision to not have a church wedding. My letter guided them in having a conversation at the end of which her parents reassured her that they love her and her fiancé and share in their joy. This woman urged me to repost so as to make it even more accessible. And so I am. . .

Last weekend I officiated a wedding that the groom’s parents boycotted because he was marrying a woman of a different faith (not the couple pictured above). His father was embarrassed and worried about what his relatives in their country of origin would say.

The groom spoke of his father with love, compassion and understanding.

He was hurt but somehow not angry.  I marveled at his generous spirit.

Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve had one or both sets of parents boycott a wedding because of religion.

And so this post is intended for the mother or father who is thinking of not attending their child’s wedding because they don’t approve of them marrying outside “the” faith.

My intention is not to scold. Rather, I invite you to reflect on my perspective. . .

Over my years of ministry I’ve come to realize certain things that I believe are true about God and religion.

I ask that you forgive me if at any time I sound presumptuous or arrogant. That’s not my intention.

“I’m spiritual, but not religious” is what many engaged couples tell me.

Although they grew up in homes that had some religious affiliation, much like yours, they themselves no longer attend weekly church services.

While many of these couples have drifted away from the church rituals of their upbringing, they still believe in God.

They desire a ceremony that honors the sacredness of what they are doing without it being religious, i.e. denominational.

With many of these couples, their parents, like you, still go to church and, like you, often times are disappointed with the couples’ decision not to have a religious-based wedding.

I believe God is never found in a church building simply because it is a church building.

People bring God to a church building. 

Family and friends, knowingly and unknowingly, bring God with them to the ceremony.

It is their love, joy and wishes that make a ceremony sacred – for God can only be found in the love and joy of God’s people.

I believe that when a couple sends out wedding invitations, they are really saying to family and friends “come celebrate the great good we have found in each other, and bear witness as we give our word to each other.” 

It really is that simple.  And what could be more sacred?

I believe a couple enters into the mystery of life and love when they give their word, their vow, to each other.

In an age when talk is cheap, what could honor God, who is “The Word,” more than for a person to give his or her word to their beloved with an open heart?

I believe the sacredness of a ceremony also comes from recognizing that family and friends are the “collective memory” of the day.

In years to come, when life gets messy, they are to remind the couple of the love they celebrated and bore witness to. And that is a sacred responsibility.

I believe a wedding ceremony, when done right, renews and refreshes everyone present.

When done right, a wedding ceremony reminds us what life is all about – friends, family, love, loyalty.

What could be more sacred than creating that simple, yet profound reminder?

I am saddened – and at times angered – when a couple tells me their mother and/or father have threatened to boycott the wedding because they’re not getting married in a church.

I don’t understand how a parent could inflict such cruelty upon their child, especially when this daughter or son is marrying a good person – a person of integrity.  I can’t understand the harsh words you inflict upon your child.

How often do we say, “God is love”?

Can any one of us truly comprehend the magnitude of this belief?  I don’t believe any human can – not even the head of a religion.

Do you not believe that God’s graciousness encompasses more than we can imagine?

Where there is love, there is God. 

Every religion holds some understanding of this tenet.

Is not God in the love your child has for their partner? Is it not possible that God’s love extends far beyond any church service?

To believe in God is to believe in an awe-inducing, life affirming mystery. To believe in God is not to believe in magic.

Do you really believe that in the face of love God could be angry?

Why do you claim your anger is a reflection of God’s anger?

Embrace your child, bless your child in and through your hurt, believing all the while, as did all the holy ones of every religion, that in the end. . .

all will be well. . . 

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

If you’re a parent who’s upset that your daughter or son is not getting married in a religious setting, and you’ve been laying a “guilt trip” on them (hey, let’s call it for what it is), then here are seven questions I invite you to reflect upon.

Let these questions spur a conversation with your son or daughter and their partner.

Talking is way better than guilt-tripping!

  • Why is it important to you that your son/daughter get married in a religious setting?
  • Do you understand that your child no longer attends church?
  • What do you think will be the consequences if your child does not get married in a church?
  • What do you think God thinks of all this?
  • Is your child’s “love” for their partner a gift or a curse?
  • What is your biggest fear regarding your child not having a religious wedding?
  • If you are worried “they” will judge you or the couple for not having a religious wedding, why are “they” being invited to the wedding?   

COURAGE!

If you want tips on how to communicate in smart, healthy ways with your partner – during wedding planning and beyond – 

check out my book, 

How to Plan Your Wedding AND Stay Sane!

OR –

Treat you and your partner to a communications coaching session with me. 

Click HERE for details!

10 Must-Have Couple Conversations BEFORE Walking Down the Aisle

But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. 

Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for 

as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. 

It is indeed a fearful gamble.

Because it is the nature of love to create, marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

                                                                        Madeleine L’Engle

true story ~

The bride was having an affair with the best man and decided not to tell her fiancé until they were on the beaches of Maui “enjoying” their honeymoon.  

The poor guy asked her why she had waited until then to tell him. She said: “I hoped it was over when I walked down the aisle.”   

The couple had argued throughout much of their engagement.  

The ways in which they argued seldom resolved the issues. She was unhappy and chose not to do anything about it – save have an affair with the best man. The groom was unhappy and chose not to do anything about it – save pretend that all was “good.”

She didn’t want to deal with the messiness of her relationship and opted to stop talking with her fiancé. She no longer told him what she needed. And he wasn’t able to find a way to express his hurt.

Change is never easy, even when it holds the promise of new and healthy beginnings.  

They each opted for the safety of what they knew – an unhappy relationship.  

Needless to say, the annulment process started as soon as the groom got back to his hotel room (and his therapy started soon after).

A bizarre and unsettling story, yes?

And I have more. . .

true story ~

It was six days before their wedding.  Andy, Sara and I met to put final touches to the ceremony. I could sense that something was troubling them. When I asked if they’d decided to have a reading, Andy mumbled, “whatever she wants,” and Sara said, “I don’t know.” When I asked if they were going to say personal words to each other or repeat just the traditional wording, Andy looked confused: “What am I supposed to say to her?”  

I smiled––duh!  

And that’s when Sara burst into tears.

They had an infant. They were building a home. They had unresolved money issues and claimed they had no time to talk.  

All they had time for was to argue, to lash out, and to say hurtful things to each other which they later regretted and didn’t know what to do with. Their jumbled, poorly expressed emotions left them exhausted as they crawled to what they called the “finish line” of their wedding planning.  

Weddings bring out the best and at times the worst in people.  

How you deal with stress during the planning is how you’ll deal with stress after the wedding is long over.

If neglected, the stress on your communication inevitably leads to you:

•          Dismissing your partner’s ideas

•          Shutting down when you partner disagrees with you

•          Playing mind games to test your partner’s love

•          Feeling brittle and unable to express clearly your needs

•          Pretending that you’re happy

At this point in your relationship, you’ve developed routines, dance steps, for communicating while handling everyday stress.  Are these routines letting you get heard by your partner?  Are they helping you take your partner’s needs seriously? Do you know what your partner needs?

10 Must-Have Couple Conversations BEFORE Walking Down the Aisle

  1. Why are we getting married? Would you be surprised at how many can’t answer this question?!
  2. Do we want children as a part of our lives?
  3. How will we manage our money?
  4. How will chores and home maintenance be handled?
  5. What boundaries do we establish in welcoming each others’ parents?
  6. What don’t we agree on? Make a list. Prioritize.
  7. How do we nurture physical and emotional intimacy?
  8. What’s our arguing style – and how satisfied are we with its effectiveness?
  9. How will we attempt to balance work and play?
  10. Where do we want to be in 10, 20, 40 years?

Here’s the great TRUTH –

The quality of your relationship is in direct proportion to the quality of your communication.

Your vows honor your commitment to that quality!

If you want tips on how to communicate in smart, healthy ways with your partner – during wedding planning and beyond – 

check out my book, 

How to Plan Your Wedding AND Stay Sane!

OR –

Treat you and your partner to a communications coaching session with me. 

Click HERE for details!