When a Parent Loves God More Than Their Child

When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,”
but rather, “I am in the heart of God.

Rumi

For their intimate, micro wedding celebration, Caroline and Josh (names changed) rented an Air BnB in Topanga Canyon, an old and beloved slice of Southern California.

When I wandered into the rambling house, I found Caroline’s parents praying the rosary.

Caroline & Josh told me that they were “spiritual but not religious.” Caroline’s parents were devout, theologically conservative Roman Catholic and Josh’s family was Jehovah.

Caroline’s parents objected to her marrying Josh – to marrying outside “the faith.” And so, Caroline and Josh waited – hoped – that eventually her parents would relent. They didn’t – but they agreed to attend the wedding.

Caroline’s dad walked her down the aisle and when they stopped at the first row, he made the sign of the cross on her forehead. I had never seen a father do that before in a wedding ceremony. I thought the gesture was both tender and intrusive.

Given all of the religious issues swirling about the ceremony, I had concerns as to how to thread that religious needle, as it were.


Just prior to the ceremony, I again shared my concerns with Josh. Did he want me to introduce the exchange of vows using the phrase, “in the presence of God”?

Josh and I sat on the stairs and talked. I was moved as this young man (20’s) struggled to do right, sharing, “I don’t think they believe our vows are in the presence of God, so why say it when they’ll be upset at our notion of God.”

Wow! Oh, how we complicate our lives all in the name of “God.”

During the ceremony, Caroline and Josh looked euphoric. Her parents looked pained. Josh’s Grandma was teary-eyed. His Mom was happy. His Sisters were proud.

And where was God in all this?

If “God is love” then I / we are compelled to believe that “God” was present in the swirl of love and emotion.

I was moved by Caroline’s and Josh’s wedding celebration. By their fragility and courage and longing and love.

Life in all its messy glory. . .
That is what a wedding ultimately celebrates


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

Advice to a Father as He Preps For a Difficult Conversation with His Daughter

A few days ago, I received an email from Roger (names changed), a divorced father whose daughter, Susan, is getting married later this year.  

Roger wrote that more than anything he wants to be emotionally present for his daughter and future son-in-law.  

But – of course, there is a “but”

Roger and his wife divorced when Susan was little. His ex-wife eventually married Jack and as Susan’s step-dad he’s been a huge part of her life. While Roger is not a buddy with his ex-wife and Jack they have always respected one another. And all three are contributing to the cost of the wedding.  

So, what’s the “but?”

Susan has asked Roger to escort her down the aisle and she and her fiancé, Brad, have asked Jack to officiate the ceremony (he’ll be getting ordained online). 

Roger feels confused and slighted as it appears that Jack is being given a larger and more important role in the wedding celebration. In addition, Roger’s family is Jewish and Jack is not.  

What will people say if there’s no rabbi?  

To his credit, Roger doesn’t like feeling petty. On the other hand, he doesn’t like feeling confused. He asked me what he should do.

I only know what Roger told me and so, of course, there are several sides to this story.  Whatever the “real” and full story might be, Roger is not the first parent to feel slighted by the decisions of a bride and groom – and you don’t have to be divorced to feel confused!

Here are some pointers I offered Roger during a phone conversation:

Start from the belief that no slight is intended.  

Roger said he had a good relationship with Susan, as did her step-dad Jack, so we can legitimately presume that Susan and Brad are seeking to do their best. The great traditional honor is for a father to escort his daughter down the aisle. 

Because Susan’s fiancé is not Jewish and because Susan’s step-dad is not Jewish and because Susan and her fiancé have decided to have a non-denominational ceremony, it makes sense why they would ask her step-dad. He is an ideal officiant (theoretically) in that he appeals to both sides.

It doesn’t matter what people think. 

I know – simple for me to say! 

I gently reminded Roger that his mother is deceased and so it doesn’t matter if she would have been disappointed that her only granddaughter is not being married by a rabbi. The dear woman no longer has to worry about such things!  

I urged him not to worry about what people will say because if anyone objects to Susan not being married by a rabbi, then, they can stay home and binge watch their fav TV series!  

A wedding is a day for joy, not judgment. Yes! Needlepoint that on a pillow!

Trust your relationship with Susan and ask her to help you sort out your feelings by explaining her decision.  

I reminded Roger that he is not asking Susan to get his permission for anything; rather, he’s simply asking her to help him make sense of a new type of celebration because he wants to be fully present for her and her Brad.

Clean – honest – no games!

I went on to suggest that, if possible, Roger, his ex-wife and Jack, together with the couple, explore how to broaden the scope of the ceremony so it’s not focused on Jack and is more inclusive of both families – after all, Brad has parents! 

Perhaps:

  • Both mothers could do a reading (they alternate stanzas).
  • All three dads could give the blessing at ceremony’s end.
  • Jack could make clear in his opening remarks that he speaks on behalf of all the parents.

Roger liked what I had to say, but, let’s face it – all of this is tricky because people see a wedding from different perspectives.  

When it comes to communicating with family, we rely on our default settings, especially when buttons get pressed.  

So, the question Roger needs to ask (and perhaps you) is: 

“What can I do differently, so as to get heard and understood, so as to hear and understand?”

Roger assured me that he was going to talk with his daughter because even though it would be a hard conversation to have, more than anything, he did not want to end up causing her pain.  

And besides, he wanted to enjoy every minute of her wedding. But in order to do that, he had to clear up his confusion.

Again, the ultimate question, whose answer will guide all your decisions is this: 

Who do you want to be – for the couple – during one of the seminal times in their life together?

The answer to that question will be the best gift you can give your child and her/his spouse!

PS:  I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with Susan and Brad. If I had, though, this is what I would have suggested to them:

As a bride, as a groom, as a couple, it’s easy to become so focused on what you want, that you can presume so much, too much, of those you love. 

To reduce miscommunication, practice these 5 strategies:

  1. No surprises – keep all VIPs in the loop throughout the planning.
  2. Be honest in talking with parental units – no guilt-tripping (no matter how tempting – or potentially rewarding).
  3. Don’t assume responsibility for your parents’ feelings. This isn’t about “making” them happy. However, don’t trample their feelings.
  4. “Because” – that simple word goes a long to bringing about understanding.  People appreciate understanding the “why” behind a decision.
  5. Keep channels open – “this is what I need from you” can probably never be said too many times!

And what everyone needs to remember is this: you can disagree and still love!

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!

Weddings + Self-Worth

If you have to stand on your head to make somebody happy, all you can expect is a big headache.

Ilene Beckerman

Shannon Kellogg, is a psychologist who got married several years ago in a hard-to-remember pre-Covid time! She reflected on her wedding in an article I saved from The Huffington Post: Is Your Self-Esteem Tied to Your Wedding? 

Here’s an excerpt –  

As I was planning my wedding, I found myself thinking about every decision carefully – weighing not just what I wanted, but how others would view it. I felt I had something to prove to my fiancé’s family, my friends, my frenemies who might see my wedding pictures on Facebook. I wanted them to see how happy I was, what an amazing relationship I had with the man I was marrying. 

I became consumed with how this wedding represented me. It was the culmination of all that I was and all that I was going to be. Did the flowers represent who I was? Did the venue really reflect our style? 

With all of the might I could muster, I realized I was going too far. I knew that I had to feel secure in myself and to feel good enough without needing anyone else’s approval.

The article reminded me of Emily and Jared (names changed), a couple whose wedding I officiated back in 2017. 

They were getting married at a private estate – a fun place that was going to allow them to personalize their celebration.  

When I complimented their venue choice, Emily looked sadly at me and said, “you don’t understand. . .my family is going to judge us for not giving them a grand party.” 

I was floored. Grand? The wedding was costing over $50,000. How was it not going to be “grand?”

She explained that compared with the weddings of her two cousins, this was going to be a modest affair.

Throughout the entire planning, Emily made herself miserable because of what she thought other people were going to say.  

Emily was not the only bride I’ve known who made herself miserable over what she thought people were going to say.

And now here we are, slowly emerging from a pandemic, and couples are debating whether to go “grand” or “micro.” 

Over the past year, as I’ve listened to my couples share their disappointment at having to reconfigure their celebration, I’ve also heard a certain panic, “what will people think?”

I understand all about family politics. Trust me; I really do. I’m New York, Irish, Catholic!  

I know it’s easy for me to say, don’t worry. Recognizing that, here are a few questions for you and partner to ask yourselves as you re-envision your celebration:  

  • What is your wedding celebrating?
  • What is the most important aspect(s) of your celebration?
  • Who needs to be with you IRT and who could share their joy with you in other ways and at other times?
  • What kind of team do you need to assemble to help bring this new vision to life?
  • What fears / concerns do you have about your re-imagined celebration? What’s the worst that could happen if they came true?
  • If you’re worried that people are going to judge you why are they in your life?

lYou can only keep the “I” in your “I Do” if you have a sense of who you are, who your partner is, and who you are as a couple. 

A pandemic can’t take that away from you.

A wedding – grand or micro – isn’t about “proving” anything. 

It’s about celebrating “everything” that you and your partner are and that you hope to become.  

If people aren’t willing to joyfully celebrate your life, then so be it.  

Why, though, give them the power to ruin your happiness?

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!

the most important vow of all

We love because it’s the only true adventure.

                                                                  Nikki Giovanni

Earlier this year I officiated the wedding of Kim and Theo (names changed). Kim had been married twice before with her second marriage ending in the death of her husband. Theo had been married once before and divorced thirteen years ago.  

They are now both in their 50’s and met on the dating site “Our Time.” Their first date was a week before the world went into lockdown last year.

When Zooming with them, I enjoyed their humor as well as their excitement for their elopement. Seeing them on Zoom, listening to them tell their story, they made sense to me. Of course, you’re a couple!

Later, though, I got to wondering – What does it take to go on a dating site in your 50’s?

What does it take to keep your heart open to surprise. To enjoy the surprise. To overcome the awkwardness + self-consciousness that accompanies surprise. 

I think it must take longing + courage + confidence + hope + a “what-the-hell” attitude.

I am in awe of Kim and Theo as I cheer them on.

They are remarkable. . .

And a wedding celebrates a couple’s remarkableness!

More, though. . .

I grew up in the Catholic faith and church doctrine teaches that marriage is once and for all. You’ve got to “get it right” the first time because there’s no divorce. 

But the truth is – in life there is no “getting it right” unless one lives and makes mistakes and hopefully learns from those mistakes.

Marriage is not about perfection.

Kim and Theo had three previous marriage between them and from each of those marriages they learned a bit more about what it means to love and be loved.

If you think about it, isn’t that what your vows are all about?

I will continue to learn how to love – to love you.

I know how to love and I know I don’t know how to love.

I will teach you how to let me love you.

I will let you teach me how to love myself – my life – our life.

We teach – we learn – we make mistakes – we love.

And in their vows a couple say – 

together, we will witness it all and together we will celebrate it all.

We bless – we hope – we live. . .

Believing 

Life is worthy of our best – 

And so you pledge to summon forth your best from each other. . .

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

        

“I Understand” – a poem to her husband by Meredith, my goddaughter

I recently discovered, much to my surprise, that my goddaughter Meredith is a writer! I officiated her “micro-wedding” last May. She and her husband Cole are planning a big bash, the originally envisioned celebration, this November. . .

This is a free-form poem she wrote to Cole. . .I’m biased. . .I’m also moved as I think it is, in a way, an encapsulation of the vows they offered to each other.

I’m grateful Meredith gave me permission to share with you, in the hope that her words to Cole help you discover your words to your partner. . .

I understand.

I understand why you get quiet

I understand how hard it must be for you to feel the pressures of the world riding on your shoulders;

No room to fuck up.

I understand that injustices of the world make you downright angry,

And you carry that too.

I understand that you can’t control how much you care. Care too much?

Never an option for me

But for you this means weakness,

Lack of control.

This, I understand.

I understand because, in many ways, I am the same.

I understand that I am crazy.

I understand I drive you crazy too.

I understand how you can read a person’s character in less than 10 seconds.

I understand that you ‘were raised better than that’.

I understand why you are slow to trust.

I understand that you think you are average.

What I don’t understand is why.

You are everything but average to me in every way.

I understand that sometimes you don’t want to talk.

I only hate it because I love the sound of your voice.

I understand you feel you have to fight to get what/where you want in life.

I only wish I could give it to you.

I understand that you don’t like to share certain opinions with people.

I understand this does not include sports.

I understand what you mean when you say, ‘nothing’.

…and then again, sometimes I don’t.

I understand you think you love me more, but I must inform you

This is not the case.

I understand I see things as a competition, sometimes too often.

I understand how I bug you.

I understand that sometimes we are too alike in our stubbornness, neither wanting to give in.

I understand that you view certain things differently than I do.

I understand that you have a lot of patience (not just with me), but in general.

What I don’t understand is how?

I understand that we are young.

I understand that not many people last at our age.

I understand that you make me feel how I never have felt before.

What I don’t understand is why not us?

Why not you?

Who has the authority to tell you, you can’t do something?

In my eyes, you are capable of anything.

All this, and more I understand.

Yet, I am still left wondering. . .

When is our time?

When will I be able to fully understand you and your love?

I am not done understanding, nor am I done trying to.

From all that I understand, I understand

There is more.

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 Tiny Love Story

As you may know from reading this blog, I was born and raised in New York City – in the Bronx.

Although my family and oldest friends still live in “the” city, I’ve not lived there in decades. I am now decidedly a SoCal kind of guy.

But – I read The New York Times every day as some habits never die. One of my favorite sections is called “Tiny Love Stories.” It’s simply a column that invites readers to submit “tiny” stories of love in one-hundred words or less.

And now, those good folks at The Times have collected 175 of those stories into a book. Yes!!

As the book blurb reads:

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be swept away—in less time than it takes to read this paragraph. Told in voices that are honest, vulnerable, tender, and wise, here are 175 true stories that are each as moving as a lyric poem and convey a universally recognized feeling, all in fewer than one hundred words. There are stories of love found and love lost, and the sometimes rarest of loves, self-love. Stories of romantic love, brotherly love, platonic love. Stories of mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, strangers who dream of what might have been. And the oldest story of all—boy meets girl—their tale ends happily ever after, even though along the way the boy became a girl.

BUT. . .

The real treat for me is that one of my friends has her tiny love story published in this book! I am thrilled for Sarah and utterly delighted to share in this post her story about her husband, Buddy, who is one of my heroes.

Buddy and I entered the Jesuit seminary (novitiate) at the same time – at a time when we were both young and innocent and hell-bent on changing the world. Ah, youth! 

Here’s Sarah’s tribute to Buddy. . .I am grateful to call them my friends. . .

“Tell Me, Honey”

I have worshiped my older brother my entire life. We are in our 50s now. Last summer he fell ill, gripped by mania, his extraordinary mind betraying him, fueling a paranoia that his wife and I were working against him. I wept constantly, wracked with worry. I was desperate to talk about it — once a day, or 27 times — for months. Before his difficult recovery, whenever I would begin a sentence, “My brother …” my husband of two decades would put down his phone, coffee, newspaper or briefcase and look into my eyes and say, “Tell me, honey.”

— Sarah Brazaitis

1

A Season of Surprise

Always there has been an adventure just around the corner – 
and the world is still full of corners.
Roy Chapman Andrews

This post is not exactly wedding-themed – but – it speaks to this season of special celebration – and – may give you and your partner a moment to reflect and give thanks for the surprise of your own love. . .

A down-and-out character in Tennessee Williams’ play “Small Craft Warnings” asks this question:

“What is the one thing you must not lose sight of in this world before leaving it? Surprise. The capacity for surprise.”

The Christmas story is one of the great stories of “surprise.” A virgin birth, an angelic choir to greet a long-anticipated savior in the stinkiest of settings, are the surprise highlights in a story that ripples with the unexpected.

No matter one’s religious beliefs or non-beliefs, I think it does us good to reflect on our own individual capacity for being surprised – by life and perhaps, most especially, by our own self.  

Can you still surprise yourself?

The mad rush to year’s end, beginning at Thanksgiving, accelerates the freneticism of our daily routines.  

We want some holiday cheer, some Christmas “spirit,” whatever that spirit actually means and feels and looks like. But because we’ve been planning, organizing, shopping and juggling we just end up losing sight of the “why” of it all.

For some that “why” has a religious answer and for others it has some different answer, or no answer.  

But no matter – we’re still left with the reality that “surprise” is embedded within the DNA of this holiday time.  

Even the most famous secular Christmas story, “A Christmas Carol,” is the tale of a nasty old man who is given the surprise of his life – past, present and future!

The great gift of “the holidays” is the gift of being open to surprise.  

And why is this gift so extraordinarily crucial?  

Because life without surprise is not life. It’s just a monotonous, deadening, robotic routine.

To keep Christmas in one’s heart all year round as Dickens urged is really a promise to be a bearer of surprise in all things great and small.  

It’s mindfully being willing to do the unexpected, the unanticipated and the unlooked for.  

To surprise people with small courtesies as simple as wearing a mask or sending a thank-you. 

To surprise the seemingly idiotic co-worker with patience. 

To surprise a delivery person with a generous tip. 

To surprise a friend with time for an actual phone chat.

To surprise your partner with – ?? – whatever would make them burst into a smile.

And it means being willing to surprise your own self – to be kind to your own self – to not punish yourself with food that makes you sluggish, with anxiety-inducing wedding tasks that derail the joy of planning your wedding or with dreams deferred that cause you to walk away from yourself.

To surprise your self by doing what you’ve put off doing because of fear.

In a year filled with more shock than surprise, this holiday season is a time for surprise and light and birth in ways unfamiliar and unnerving.  

This is a time to once again resolve to live with courage – in the company of the one who helps give you courage.

Life, in all its messy and unexpected glory, is what animates the deepest yearnings of this season in both its religious and secular manifestations.

Merry Surprise!

The point is not to live long – we live forever anyway. 
The point is while you are alive, be ALIVE.
Brenda Ueland

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A Thanksgiving Memory

Of all the blog posts and articles I’ve written, I think THIS is my all-time favorite piece of writing. I wrote it back in 2012 and am delighted to repost it. Enjoy!

A Thanksgiving memory. . .

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 I wanted to kill you. 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.

BONUS!

CLICK HERE

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 Bride’s Letter to Her Father

photo: moore photography

When I meet with a couple to discuss their ceremony I ask a lot of questions – not because I’m nosey, rather because I want to get as a full a sense of who they are as possible.

One of the questions I ask is: “Your parents: alive, deceased; together, not together; talking, not talking; or any combination thereof?!” 

Occasionally, a couple will say that both sets of parents are together and equally happy for them.

More often, though, I get answers that are complicated for any number of reasons!

Last year around this time (ah, for the good old days!) I met with a bride, Ellie (names changed), whose father had refused to give his “blessing” to her and her fiancé Finn.

For five years he held back.

Finally and somewhat begrudgingly he gave his approval. He reached this place because both Ellie and Finn, were patient and, in my opinion, generous in their consideration of his feelings.

Ellie shared with me a letter she had written her dad. It was over six pages, single-spaced and I, who seldom cry, was misty-eyed by the end.

If you’re reading this post and are a bride or groom, I know that you have your own story with your parents.

I want, though, to share a very edited selection from Ellie’s letter.

Why?

Well, one of my favorite quotes is from the great (and infamous) Irish writer, Oscar Wilde. He said,

“Never love anyone who treats you as ordinary.”

I love that notion of not giving your love to someone who thinks you’re merely ordinary.

The selection below (details have been altered to protect privacy) moved me because clearly Ellie and Finn do not treat each other as ordinary. . .

Dear Dad,

Finn is my best friend. He works 30-hour shifts with the pager going off constantly, trauma patients coming in, the doctors asking for help, the nurses calling for orders, the patients and families wanting someone to talk to – it’s chaotic.

And after all that he goes home exhausted and he still finds it in himself to call me, talk to me like I’m a human being, ask me how my day was. He listens to me complain about school and how I’m exhausted and he helps me through it. He never gets angry at me, he never gets impatient, never tells me that my problems are insignificant compared to his. . .

Since I’ve met him he has never once raised his voice at me, never disrespected me, never made me feel inferior and even in the most stressful times in his own life he’s never taken his emotions out on me. He understands me, appreciates me, takes care of me and always knows exactly what I want. He makes me smile when I need to, lets me whine when I want to and is always there for me through everything. . .

The only thing that makes this picture incomplete is the fact that you decided long ago that you dislike him.

You think he’s unreliable but what you haven’t seen is how he always keeps his word and follows through with the things he says. You think that he can’t stay faithful but I’ve never met a more faithful person to his friends, his family, his colleagues and to me.  

I know you liked Brandon (name changed) and you miss him but that wasn’t a relationship I could have stayed in. When he got grumpy he was unpleasant, after 10 hours at work he would be snappy, if he was unhappy about one thing he was unhappy about everything, including me.

I always doubted myself, always figured I was doing something wrong, I always wanted to know what I could fix or do better. I thought that the cost of knowing what he was thinking was having to deal with his raw emotions.

Little did I know that there could be someone who would tell me everything they were feeling but at the same time realize that I wasn’t the source of his negative emotions, I was the cure for them and there was no need to take his anger out on me.

I know the type of person that you are trying to protect me from; but time and time again Finn has shown me that he is not that type of person.

I don’t want to lose my family over this. I’d like to be able to have a calm conversation with you about this without any yelling or arguing.

Love,

Ellie

 

A moving letter, yes?

If you’ve been to a lot of weddings, chances are you’ve heard read the classic excerpt from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “Love is patient, love is kind.”

It’s a powerful reading, but because it has been heard so many times at weddings, it’s lost it’s force.

Here’s a modern translation of Paul’s letter.

What strikes me is how similar Paul’s words on love are to the words Ellie uses to describe the love she shares with Finn.

 Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies: trust steadily, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

My hope is that your wedding celebrates a love that truly is extraordinary.

My hope is that your love for each other will always be extraordinary!

. . .to the Divorced Parents of the Bride or Groom

photo: jesseleake.com

A Letter To The Divorced Parents of The Bride and/or Groom

 

While the postings I usually write are primarily for the couple planning their wedding, this post is different.

I want to speak with the parents – the divorced parents – of a bride or groom.

I want to share with you something of the unique perspective I’ve been given in my role as officiant.

I love weddings for many reasons, chief among them being that I love stories.

As an officiant I hear a lot of stories. Stories that make me laugh, that inspire me or simply gobsmack me with their whack-a-do-ness!

And then there are the heart-aching stories, many of which involve parents who happen to be divorced.

Not all “my parents are divorced” stories are tragic. In fact, I’ve met divorced parents who have somehow managed to remain friends – and who genuinely like the new spouses. Hard to believe, I know, yet true.

Then there are the other stories – stories of unhealed hurt and bitterness that propel people into saying and doing things that are astounding.

Bradley’s (all names changed) Catholic parents divorced when he was seven years old (their marriage was not annulled). His mother, who attends daily Mass, told him that if he invited his father’s wife (of ten years) she would not be able to attend the wedding.

Janet’s mother told her that if she asked her father to escort her down the aisle, she wouldn’t attend the wedding because the sight of him smiling would make her sick.

Alice asked her mom and step-dad (who had raised her) to walk her down the aisle.

But her father was paying for the reception and he wanted to walk her down the aisle even though he had disappeared from her life when she was ten and only re-emerged three years ago.

And, yes, he threatened to not pay for the 4-star reception if her mom and step-dad walked her down the aisle.

Just last week I Zoomed with Caryl, a bride whose parents divorced when she was ten years old.

Her father remarried a year later. Caryl developed a warm relationship with her step-mom. Eventually, her father divorced her step-mom, but Caryl remained friends with her.

Caryl’s mother is now engaged and her father is again engaged – to a woman eight years older than Caryl. Caryl’s step-mom is remarried. All six people will be present at the wedding.

Caryl’s father hasn’t talked to her mother in years.

Caryl’s mother and first step-mom can’t stomach her father’s fiancée and don’t want her in any family portraits.

And the fiancée? Well, she’s demanding a corsage identical to the one Caryl’s mom is wearing.

Are you confused?  Do you hear just how outrageous all of this is?!

When Caryl began to explain the “flow-chart” to me, she was laughing at the absurdity of it all.

By the end of our conversation, she was crying.

And Tony, her fiancé, whose own parents have been happily married for thirty-five years, looked on concerned and bewildered.

The pressures of dealing with it all, the pain of seeing so much hatred among people she genuinely loves and cares for, has taken its toll on Caryl.

She’s weary from the demands that each of these people is making on her.

As both an officiant and a communication coach, I offered her some tips on how to assert herself and set boundaries. But what she needs is more than “tips.”

What she needs is KINDNESS. 

She needs for each of these people to be kind to her and to her fiancé. She needs them, at the very least, to be civil and sensible with each other.

And so, as you grapple with your own pain, which does need to be respected, I plead with you to not let your pain cause you to forget about your daughter or son, who is trying to be a peacemaker, who is trying to respect her or his relationship with your ex-spouse, who does not want to add to your hurt, yet who cannot bear the burden of your pain.

I’m not demeaning or dismissing your raw feelings.

Trust me, my own extended family is whack-a-do enough for me to know your ex may have never offered you the kindness you deserved.

Now, though, you have the opportunity, dare I say the responsibility, to offer your child all the kindness that they deserve.

I don’t know the story of your divorce – and maybe your daughter or son doesn’t even know the full story.

But as an officiant, I can tell you that I am saddened from meeting brides and grooms whose hearts are torn by the flame-tossing insensitivity of their divorced parents.

I know it’s not your intention to hurt your child – but you are.  In more ways than you know.

It’s been said that the “truth hurts,” so here is the truth –

you simply don’t have the right to douse your child and their partner with your anger and bitterness. 

Surely, this is not the wedding gift you want to give them?

STOP the demands

STOP the ultimatums

STOP the drama

You do have the power to stop the madness.

Your daughter or son deserves the best of who you are on their wedding celebration.

How can you even think of offering them anything less?

Get the support you need – and deserve. Ask your son or daughter to recognize your pain.  Ask without emotionally blackmailing them.

And then ask them what they need from you.

Even though I don’t know you, I am going to ask you, on behalf of your son or daughter, to do what may be the bravest thing you’ve ever done:

Bless them through your hurt and pain –

and don’t let that hurt and pain cause you to hurt them

on their day of hope and renewal.

Courage!