What a Trio of Weddings Taught Me About Weddings!

josh elliot studios


Although I love officiating non-denominational, cross-cultural and inter-faith wedding ceremonies, I pride myself on not being a “wedding factory.”  I’ll officiate only one wedding a day and most weekends I’m booked with just one wedding, typically on a Saturday. Last month, though, I had an unusual weekend where I was booked with three weddings – Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


Each was unique and so different from the other two. Yet, they all shared one thing in common. . .


Friday night I was down in Orange County for the wedding of Suzie and Jared (names changed),  Jared is an actor and keeps busy with TV work. He hasn’t won an Emmy, but his profile is high enough that his engagement was highlighted by People Mag.


Suzie and Jared asked me to ask their guests not to take photos during the ceremony and not post anything of the wedding to social media. I was more than happy to do so!


I’m biased – while I love my technology and have everything that begins with the letter “i” I don’t get why guests want to spend the ceremony taking snaps with their smart phone or tablet. It takes them so out of the moment and experience.


It was wonderful to look out and see 120 people focused on Suzie and Jared and not craning to get some amateurish shot.


During the ceremony I happened to notice a young guy in the third row. He had a rugby build and before the ceremony had been joking and flirting with several single women – clearly making the most of the moment! Now, though, I caught a glimpse and could see that there was a change in his face – he looked visibly moved as Jared and Suzie exchanged vows.


I was reminded – again – of the power of ritual to connect us to a deep truth.


Saturday night was in Malibu at a high-end resort with a view of “forever.” Everything about Karli’s and Chip’s wedding was more elaborate than Suzie’s and Jared’s. But there was nothing stuffy about any of it.


It was a windy day and Karli’s veil was billowing up into her face. Laughing, she turned to her maid of honor who was frantically trying to grab it and said, “Oh, just step on the darn thing!”  And the maid of honor did – no more whiplash from the veil!


And then on Sunday I flew up to Sacramento for a wedding. Dale’s and Kevin’s wedding was a simple, minimal DIY.


The ceremony began and Kevin was BEAMING – I mean BEAMING – as he watched Dale walk down the aisle with her mom. I suddenly realized that for the first time in my life, I may have been witnessing true “euphoria.” WOW!


Three unique couples. 

Three unique wedding ceremonies. 

Three unique celebration styles and budgets. 


What did they share in common?


Alice Walker has one of her characters in The Color Purple ask this question:

“Tell the truth, have you ever found God in a church? I never did. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too.”


While these were not church weddings, with a nod to Walker, I’d rephrase the question: 

“Did I ever find magic created by the budget of a wedding? I never did. Any magic I ever felt I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too – bring the magic with them.”


It’s the magic of your wedding that people will be talking about for years to come. . .


If you want more 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!

Tips for Having A Festive Beach Wedding!



Every weekend in the summer you’ll find me officiating non-denominational wedding ceremonies in some of the most beautiful locations found in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. While most of those ceremonies take place at venues with spectacular views of the ocean, occasionally couples want to actually have their ceremony on the beach.


Beach weddings evoke romantic images – and they can be romantic – if you plan sensibly. The key word in that last sentence is sensibly!


Whether you believe in climate change or not the reality is – temperatures are rising! Family and friends love you – dearly – and I promise you that they will love you even more if you don’t plop them in the middle of a beach without some thought and care!


Having officiated upwards of a hundred sweaty, salty SoCal beach weddings,

here are my tips for having a festive wedding ceremony on beach sand!


Provide shade. During the summer, the sun can be brutal, especially if you’re wearing something other than a bathing suit! A festive way to offer guests some shade is by providing colorful paper umbrellas – your guests even could lead you to the ceremony spot in a Mardi Gras procession of color. And if not umbrellas then paper fans.


Provide cold water. Buckets of cold water. Trust me on this!

You will have “lookie-loos.” If you’re getting married on a pubic beach, you should expect some folks to watch – or gawk! Know that some of these folks will pop up in your video/photos. And some of those folks probably should be arrested for wearing Speedos!


Check out your intended ceremony beach spot a week or so before your wedding. When do crowds thin out? Is there a stretch that is less populated? While it will be hard to find a private spot, you at least can reduce the number of unwanted guests.


Be creative – you’re not having a traditional ceremony. Be creative in every aspect of the ceremony – from what you wear to how you exchange vows and rings. Here are some creative and engaging ceremony touches. . .


Rather than setting up rows of chairs, have your guests circle around you in a tight knit circle of love.


I’ve officiated at beach weddings where couples actually dragged string trios onto the sand – only to have the music blown out to sea. Why not have a horn, trumpet or steel drum shout forth the joy of your day?


I’ve seen brides clomp through the sand in puffy dresses, complete with veil and train. So not romantic! You’re not in a church – why imitate a church setting?


I feel for older guests and relatives who trudge through the sand in shoes – wanting to remain “proper.” Consider alternatives. Have folks switch into flip-flops before heading off to the ceremony spot. Perhaps you can provide a station where people can remove socks and shoes and then, after the ceremony, have moist cloths ready so they can wipe their feet before putting their shoes back on.


Virtually everyone has their own pair of sunglasses so if you are providing sunglasses as a wedding favor make sure they’re unique.


When I officiated the wedding of reality show Survivor sweethearts Rob & Amber at the Atlantis in the Bahamas, their rings were presented on a seashell. Before exchanging rings, they washed their hands in a conch shell and had their mothers dry their hands. It was a poignant moment.


Simple – festive – Creative.

Keep these three words in mind as you plan for your memorable beach wedding ceremony!


If you want to learn 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 Not To Be Stressed On Your Wedding Day!


Theresa & Nick is the couple whose wedding photo is at the top of my homepage. I officiated their wedding last year. They’re a fun couple and each has a great, silly sense of humor. We hit it off right away.


When I arrived at their venue, Pelican Hill, they had not had a “first look.” I found each busy with photos and last-minute touches. I marveled at how relaxed they were. They each gave me a warm welcome – some couples are so nervous they barely recognize who I am! Teresa and Nick were not just happy – they were joyful.


The sad thing is that too many of my couples are more stressed than joyful in that hour before their ceremony.


I’m now convinced that THE question is – how can you be joyful on your wedding day?


I think the answer is rather simple. You can do what Teresa and Nick did ~


  • You invite the right guests – only those people who mean something important to you.


  • You hire the right team of vendors – and let them do what you’re paying them to do.


  • You successfully navigate the shoals of parents’ demands.


  • You believe without a twinge that this is the person you want to travel through life with.


And I think there’s something else you can do – “should” do. . .


There’s been much written on “gratitude” in the past few years especially with Oprah having popularized the gratitude journal. It’s not that I’m an ungrateful person, BUT I think in the past I’ve reacted in a stereotypical, New York jaded kind of way to the notion of a “gratitude journal.”


Recently, though, I’ve discovered / rediscovered the power of mindfully making the “giving of thanks” a part of my daily ritual.


The following snippet is from Jacqueline Lewis, co-founder of the World Gratitude Map and blogger at GlobalResilience.net.


I think wedding stress could be reduced if each day you followed the exercise Lewis suggests – just make the “three things” all related to your wedding.


It’s worth a try and I think you’ll be surprised – for the good!


Gratitude Exercise ~

For the next five days, do the following daily:


Think of three things that happened that day for which you’re grateful. Jot them down.


As days pass, you may notice that you’re now on the lookout throughout the day for reasons to be grateful.


You may easily come up with a dozen candidates that you’ll winnow to three for your list—and your attitude will perk up as you start to see the world in a more positive light.


So, how do you experience joy on your wedding day?


At the risk of sounding obnoxious – just do what I’ve suggested in this post!


And then abandon yourself to the joy of the experience – let yourself and your partner be carried high on all the love and joy family and friends bring to your celebration!


Could joy be that simple?

Yeah – it could be – and it is!


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!








My Favorite Wedding Story – EVER!



If you read through my blog posts I think you’ll see that as a non-denominational wedding officiant I’ve been lucky to meet up with some wonderful people – couples, their families and friends, along with some of the most talented, creative and deep-down good people you’ll ever find wandering the earth!


And if you carefully read through my blog, you’ll also notice that I’ve had some unusual, if not downright wacky experiences – and it’s not just because most of my weddings are in the Southern California counties of Los Angeles and Orange!


I may not have seen it all, BUT I’ve seen a lot.


Since it’s the first weekend of summer and a great time for story-telling, I’m going to tell you one of my all-time favorite wedding stories – perhaps my most whack-a-do wedding story EVER and for that reason it is also a story that comes with an important lesson.


True story:

It was an outdoor wedding.


Argentina and Marco (30’s) (names changed) had been together five years and were great partners. Towards the end of their ceremony, as I was on the verge of zapping them with a blessing and then pronouncing them husband & wife, Argentina’s mother suddenly stood up and walked towards me.

I was puzzled but then remembered she was a widow. Maybe she wanted to thank folks for coming? Maybe she was supposed to read a poem and the couple forgot to tell me?


I walked over to her and in a voice only I could hear, she said these immortal words, “Do not pronounce them husband & wife, I have reservations.” 


beyond stunned, I thought, “Do you really think I’m going to hand over my mic so we can enjoy a Jerry Springer moment?”


I smiled and said to her, “The only reservation you better have is for dinner.” Hey, I was born and raised in New York City!


It was now the mother’s turn to be stunned; she didn’t move.  I raced back to the couple and pronounced them husband & wife.


The photographer, musicians and coordinator later swarmed me – no one could believe what had happened. But –  I was concerned about Argentina.


When I found her, I gave her a big hug and she then told me something I think of every time I meet with a couple. She said, “I guess I forgot to tell you about my mother.”


I froze.

Everyone knew that momma was “unpredictable.”

Everyone knew that momma was not happy with the marriage.

Everyone told Argentina not to invite momma.


Argentina knew her mother was trouble, but, out of guilt, she felt she “should” invite her. After all, she was her mother. And so she invited her – knowing that her mother may attempt to disrupt the joy of her day.


Throughout the morning, Argentina was anxious. Throughout the ceremony many of her guests were apprehensive. All because of her mother, who held the day hostage.


Argentina and Marco had gotten into many arguments over her mother. And, yes, I think I detected an “I told you so” smirk in Marco’s eyes after the ceremony!


Here’s the thing –


While planning your wedding, you and your partner can easily buy into the crazy making belief that there are things you “should” do regarding your wedding because that’s how things “should” be.


Stop and ask yourselves these Sanity Saver Questions –

  • Are there any decisions you’ve made out of guilt rather than desire?
  • Are you and your partner ready to live with the outcomes of those decisions?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen if you refused to be influenced by “guilt”?



No one – no friend, no family member – has the right to take your day hostage by selfish whims and desires.


Do not plan your wedding out of a sense of “should.” 

Plan it out of a sense of what you and your partner want to do. Be guided by what reflects you as a couple.


If you want more 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!








Why No Two Weddings Are Alike!


As you know, some weeks are more interesting than others – and for me, last week was one of those weeks!


On Sunday, I did a baby blessing for Don and Leslie (all names changed). I officiated their wedding seven years ago. They both had been raised Catholic but are not regular church goers and so they didn’t want a formal baptism. Their Catholic roots, though, tugged at them – they wanted to do something to welcome and celebrate little Brett’s arrival in this world, in their family.


And so we had a blessing with family and close friends – people I first met seven years ago on another day of blessing. It was all so simple and so poignant. Leslie read a quote I had used at their wedding:


“A wise woman of old once wrote that, ‘It is the quality of life that matters most. The taste of the food on the table; the light in the room; the peace and wholeness of the moment. Perfect love casts out fear and the only perfect form of love found on earth is the wordless commitment of family.’”


Into such a world we welcomed Brett.


On Tuesday I was on line at a Starbucks in Glendale. I was checking email when a man tapped me on the shoulder. He was smiling, “JP, you probably don’t remember me, but I’m Fred and you married me and my wife Rosanna almost ten years ago.”

I did remember them and I was so happy to reunite.

Fred went on, “We still smile when we think on our ceremony and I just want you to know that I’m probably more in love with Rosanna than I’ve ever been.”


Starbucks was never so good. . .


On Thursday afternoon I went to the Pasadena home of Mark and Terry. They’re both at an age when AARP regularly sends them materials and because they’ve been together many years they’ve decided it’s time to marry and legally protect their life together.  BUT, they really do want a big wedding celebration – later in the year, though. And so they decided to have a “secret wedding” with just two close friends. It was held in Terry’s home, which had belonged to her grandmother.




It was a lovely way to spend a weekday afternoon!


And then on Saturday I was off to Orange County to officiate the wedding of RJ and Alice, who were more than half the age of Mark and Terry. Over 200 friends and family came to cheer them on in their commitment.


Maybe it’s because their wedding culminated for me a week of special moments, I found myself especially moved as they offered their vows to each other.


There is so much hoopla surrounding a wedding, as well there should be. But what this ceremony-packed week showed me, reminded me, is that a wedding celebrates a couple’s commitment to honor and relish and live the ordinary routine of daily life.


WHAT do they all this week’s moments have in common? 


I think it can be summed up in this quote from the movie, “Shall We Dance?”


“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet. I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. 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.’”


That’s what all these couples were doing – bearing witness to each other’s lives.

And I couldn’t be happier or more honored that they invited me to share the celebrating of that witnessing!


If you want to learn 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 the Words “In Good Times & Bad” Really Mean


As a non-denominational wedding officiant I get to meet many people – it’s one of the reasons why I love what I do!

After a ceremony I’ll sometimes be stopped by a guest who wants to share their story with me and sometimes I’ll get an unexpected email from a person who attended one of my ceremonies.

Vivian (name changed) is a friend to the mother of one of my brides from earlier in the year. This is an excerpt from an email she wrote me:

Four years ago my husband Jake was terminated from his job at the age of 59. As you can imagine, he experienced depression and a loss of identity. Because he had two open-heart surgeries in the previous ten years, he didn’t have it in him to begin a new corporate career. He prayed for direction, asking to be shown a way. 

Originally, he came to LA to be a comedy writer. Through a series of events, he now has his work on GoComics.com. He receives mail from many who thank him for the smiles, saying his cartoons helped them through chemo and other difficult life events.

The inspiring thing about my husband’s journey that motivates me is that life is full of opportunities, often unknown, and that every day is a new beginning – perhaps the opportunity to reinvent oneself, to dare to try something we always dreamed about.


I am moved by Vivian’s tribute to Jake – which was really her tribute to their married life.

As a wedding officiant I am privileged to witness the giving of so many couples’ vows. And while those vows can swerve from the very silly to the very profound, Vivian’s admiration of Jake reminds me that in its essence the marriage vow is grounded in thanks and hope.


Vivian reminds me that there is no gratitude without hope.


To give thanks for what we can see also acknowledges that there is more to come because “every day is a new beginning.” However, I think it’s easier to say, “I’m thankful” than it is to say, “I’m hopeful.”


That’s because real hope is always big and it requires that we have a generous attitude looking to the future. And that takes courage. Vivian and Jake, each and together, are courageous people.


I’m challenged by Vivian’s story because I don’t think I’m a hopeful person. I think “to hope” can seem like it’s leaving things up to chance and I don’t want to take a chance on chance because I’m never lucky!


And I don’t think I’m really a grateful person because I’m never satisfied. I keep pushing myself without pausing to take stock of what I’ve accomplished and what has been given me.


So what to do? 


Live from cautious hope?

Live with meager thanks?

That simply won’t do.

I think we’re asked to do what Jake and Vivian did.


Vivian loved her husband by bearing witness to his pain and struggle. And in Vivian’s unwavering gaze, Jake was able to remember what he’d forgotten – his love of humor.


And so, somehow, in that mixture of faith and hope, fear and love, together they were able to strive to create anew their life – present and future – despite the sirens of the unknown. 


I think that this is the truest of loves – the love that a wedding honors and celebrates!


What about you? What are you promising in your vows??


I am a Los Angeles-based non-denominational wedding officiant. During the last twenty years, I’ve officiated over one thousand non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural weddings.


For more insights and tips on the writing of your wedding vows

check out my book:

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

What Do You + Your Partner Talk About?


Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.



I came across a posting on The Atlantic Magazine website titled: What Kinds of Happy Couples Eventually Get Divorced?

I think this is the first time the word “divorce” has appeared on my blog, as it’s a phenomenon I don’t want to have to think about!

However, as a business communications coach (The Business of Confidence), I was interested in the answer to that question:


In a new study, the researchers followed 136 married couples who all reported being very satisfied in the first four years of their marriages. They questioned each spouse periodically over a period of 10 years, asking them to rate statements about marriage satisfaction, level of commitment, personality traits, stress levels, problem solving abilities, and how supportive they were with their partners. Some skills and traits were rated by the researchers, as the couples discussed relationship difficulties in the lab.


Couples who went on to divorce were more likely to be poorer communicators and tended to display more negative emotions and support mechanisms than people who stayed married.


Although I’ve officiated over one-thousand non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural weddings, I really haven’t seen it all – but I have seen a lot.


And when it comes to couples – via my work as an officiant and pre-marital communications counselor – I’ve seen more than enough to be certain of two things:

  • The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of the communication in your life.
  • How you communicate with each other in the planning of your wedding is a sure indicator of how you’re going to communicate after your wedding.


So, my question(s) to YOU is:

Are you happy with the way you and your partner communicate?

Is there some aspect(s) of how you communicate that you want to replace

with a more effective and less stressful way of communicating?


Here’s the thing. . .

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 money?
  • Who cleans the toilet?
  • What about the in-laws?
  • What don’t we agree on?
  • How do we keep the sparks flying?
  • How will we balance work and play?


These are ALL 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.


The question is: what do you and your partner talk about?

 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?



If you want more 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!





The 4 Most Important Words to Say to Your Partner While Planning Your Wedding!


Carly Cylinder, owner of Flour LA, is a florist that provides nontraditional designs for weddings and events using eco-friendly flowers. While I’ve not had the pleasure of working with Carly, I very much want to after reading her posting in The Huffington Post.

From her vantage point as a florist, she writes about what she thinks are the four most important words a couple can say to each other:

When I meet couples for the first time during their consultations for wedding flowers, do I, the lovely innocent florist, make subliminal summations on the probable longevity of their marriage? Of course I do! And I think I’ve got it down to a science. . .

I’ve noticed that there are some couples that you meet where you know that this is meant to be. They didn’t settle, they found love, they make each other laugh and it is just easy. Although her fiancé may not give a damn if there are roses or dahlias or freesia or mums in their wedding, she will ask him, “What do you think?”

This one little question, four little words tied together to show a mutual respect, is one of the best, if not the best, questions couples can ask each other. Those are the four words that can predict the success of a marriage. This applies to any aspect of life: from asking each other’s opinions about where to eat or where to vacation to decorating the home to bouncing business advice off each other — asking “What do you think?” shows that you value your partner’s opinion.


From my vantage as someone who offers pre-marital communication coaching, I think this is a great insight.

And from my vantage as a non-denominational wedding officiant, I know that it’s true there are (many) aspects of wedding planning that a groom, by virtue of being a guy, is not going to be either excited about or interested in.

Yet, I believe your wedding is not some kind of a reality-themed party simply celebrating the whims and likes of the bride.

Your wedding is a celebration of the life you have created and of the life you pledge to continue to create. “What do you think?” can only truly be asked if the two of you have been talking about your shared vision of your celebration.


As I tell every couple who comes to me for pre-marital counseling, the core truth is –

the quality of your life is based on the quality of the communication in your life.  “What do you think?” is a question that speaks directly to the quality of your relationship.


I’ll also add ~

If you’re a groom, please remember that when your fiancée asks what you think, she really does want an answer! I’ve met with couples where the bride asks her groom, “what do you think?” and he shrugs his shoulders, grunts and says, “I don’t care.”

I’ve never met a bride who felt 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.”


Caring enough to share your thoughts, opinions, needs and wants will go a long way to reducing

the stress that comes with planning your wedding.




If you’re a bride, please remember that you can talk about your 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!


Let “what do you think?” be laced throughout all your conversations

and not just the wedding related ones.



If you want more 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!

8 Things I Know for Sure About Weddings

lauren louise photography


I’ve officiated over one thousand non-denominational wedding ceremonies here in Los Angeles and throughout the country. More times than not, couples inevitably tell me that they’re worried they’re going to cry 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 – non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural – no matter the size of the guest list, no matter the faith, culture or sexual orientation of the couple – here are


8 Things I Know for Certain About Weddings


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 unwitnessed 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!


The planning process gives clear evidence

of the strengths and weaknesses 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!


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”?


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.



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.


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.


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!


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?!


If you’ve been asked by a friend or relative to officiate their ceremony

and you’re not sure even where to begin,

I invite you to check out my book –

How To Officiate A Non-Denominational Wedding Ceremony


Email me at:

[email protected]