Is Marriage a Contract?

The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.

Audrey Hepburn

I usually use this blog to post items that either inspire or inform.  

However, I recently came across this Egyptian marriage contract from 200 B.C.E. and knew I had to post it as it blew me away!  

There is so much talk about the “institution” of marriage that we sometimes forget that the “institution” has changed over time, and from culture to culture.

This particular contract was discovered in Luxor – Egypt – not Vegas! 

Historians think that the idea of a trial marriage may have been rooted in the importance Egyptians placed on having children and so the need of a wife’s early pregnancy. 

From the vantage of 2020 this contract is an eye-opener!

I take thee, Taminis, daughter of Pamonthis, into my house to be my lawful wife for the term of five months. Accordingly, I deposit for you in the Temple of Hathor the sum of four silver stater (coins), which will be forfeited to you if I dismiss you before the conclusion of the five months, and besides this my banker shall do something for you. But if you leave me on your own account before the end of the five months, the above sum which I have deposited shall be refunded to me.

While this practice may strike us today as “odd,” it makes me think of a couple whose wedding ceremony I officiated after they had been together for over five years. 

They shared with me that each year on January 1st they sit down and review the past year and their “contract” for staying together. They review the highs and lows, the “good times and bad” of the past year, celebrating it all while recalibrating how they want their relationship to “work” and “feel” in the coming year.

They said that it’s their way of making sure they do not mindlessly take for granted each other and the life they are creating with and for each other.

I think the Pharaoh would approve!

God + Family In The Month of Pride

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

Rumi

This is a true story and it is a story I’ve waited a while to tell as it happened in the time of pre-Covid. It is an exquisite tale of a father’s love for his son who was soon to be a groom. And it is an outrageous story of just how whack-a-do families can be in times of happiness. It is also a tale of how a distorted image of God can cause so much pain. . .

true story ~

Larry (all names changed) informed his brother, Richard, that he would not be attending Samuel’s & Jake’s wedding. Richard is Samuel’s father and Larry’s brother / Samuel’s uncle. While growing-up Samuel was close to his Uncle Larry and so it stung that Larry was opting not to attend.  He explained to Richard that as a devout Catholic he doesn’t believe same-sex couples can enter into anything resembling a marriage. His once beloved nephew is a sinner and he can’t condone sinful acts.

Richard felt angry and confused and hurt. Of course, he didn’t send Larry an invite.

After the invites were sent, Larry told Richard he was insulted that he didn’t receive an invite. Richard was even more confused. Larry explained that he wanted to send a wedding gift – “we always send wedding gifts in this family!”

Richard told Larry that there was no need for a gift, given that he thought Samuel was committing a sin.

Paul, Richard’s and Larry’s other brother, ripped Larry a new one, so to speak!

Larry complained to their mom that Richard and Paul were being unreasonable.

Their mom berated Richard for being uncharitable to Larry! Richard had a three-hour conversation with his mom in which he explained that as a dad, he will always protect his son and his fiancé Jake.  

Once again, I was reminded of what I had learned from my own family – no happy occasion is truly happy until someone is miserable!

And once again, I am left with the haunting question – how much do you have to hate yourself in order to worship a God who demands you reject and renounce your son or daughter because of who they love?

For anyone who abuses the magnitude of God with a miniature heart, I simply offer you, Isaiah 49:15 “Even if a mother rejects her infant, I will not reject you.”

Richard told me the story of Larry at the glorious rehearsal dinner party he and his wife threw for Samuel and Jake. At one point, he gestured to all the laughing, happy friends and family and said to me, “I was worried that my son would never have what he and Jake have tonight – a celebration that they have found each other as partners – surrounded with the commitment and love of family and friends. I was worried how he would be hurt in this world by people who couldn’t understand love.”

Yes, this is the most powerful, poignant, eloquent conversation I ever had with a parent of a groom or bride. . .

Vow Inspo From an Unlikely Source

Love is being stupid together.

Paul Valery

Okay, so this is a post I AM embarrassed to write!

Hey, during the pandemic for many of us our taste in TV viewing went sideways. A friend of mine, a bright, witty, PBS kind-of woman, recently emailed me that she had been watching “The Good Witch” on The Hallmark Channel.

In one episode, the mayor of the town officiates a wedding and prefaces the Exchange of Vows with a poem – proving that wedding inspiration can come from the most unlikely of sources!

I took that poem and refashioned it into a vow that can be offered antiphonally.

Perhaps these poignantly powerful sentiments capture what is in your heart. . .

A

‘I do’ means I do know I could be hurt, but I am ready to be healed with you.

B

‘I do’ means I do want to try, even when the fear of failure holds me back.

A

‘I do’ means I do not know the future, but I am ready to be surprised with you along the way.

B

‘I do’ means I do want your love & I do give you mine.

‘I do’ means I do know that nothing we do will ever be the same, because we will be doing it all together.

Officiant: Do you, _____ take _______ to be your wife / husband, promising to be true to her /him, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, promising to love her / him and honor her / him all the days of your life?

I DO!

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

what Do You Want To Know About Your Partner?

Do YOU know how your partner would answer these questions?

How would YOU answer these questions if asked of you by your partner?

Let your answers guide you as you compose your vows. . .

Adapted from : The Invitation, by Oriah

  1. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
  • I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
  • I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
  • I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
  • I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic remember the limitations of being human.
  • I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
  • I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
  • I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’
  • I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
  • I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away
  • I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
  • I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

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


  

Is It Okay If We. . .?!

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

Often times couples will ask me, “is it okay if we – ?”

And that blank is filled in with a wildly imaginative assortment of ideas. 

Thumb through contemporary wedding planning books and you’ll notice that tradition is adapting to many modem inclinations. 

I officiated a wedding where the bride had a “man-of-honor” and the groom had a “best woman.” 

Another bride, whose father was deceased, had her mother escort her down the aisle. 

A shy groom, who was a musician, wrote a song for his bride and sang it in place of “saying” his own vows. 

These are visuals that broke with tradition and yet added immeasurable warmth and texture to their ceremonies. 

I really haven’t seen it all, but I’ve seen enough to know that the “different” (or even whacky) sometimes can add to the sweetness of the day.

A few memories that still make me smile –

The bride who walked down the aisle to the blaring of The Star Wars theme. Yes, it did have an other-worldly feel to it. 

The bride who did somersaults down the aisle (she was in her 40’s). More than feeling stunned, I was amazed that she could do them while wearing a dress. 

The bride who planned her wedding, guided by her astrological chart. She determined that the vows had to be said beginning exactly at 5:59 PM. I had a friend stand off to the coner and flag me when it was time. 

And then there was the couple who had their wedding in the backyard of their new home. As a symbol of their pledge to wholeheartedly “take the plunge” they jumped into the pool after I pronounced them married.  

“Is it okay if we – ?” 

Well, yes! 

A wedding celebrates you in all your glory and uniqueness. 

The only thing you “have” to do is say your vows – though I have had nervous couples ask me if they actually had to say their vows! 

And speaking of vows ~

When creating a wedding ceremony one of the main issues I discuss with a couple is the vows. Most couples are most nervous about this element.  

Couples often tell me that they don’t like standing in front of people who are looking at them. 

Hmm – that’s going to be a hard one to get around at a wedding with any guests!

Many couples opt to repeat their vows after me. I say the vows in a low voice, so as not to be heard by the guests, and then hope that the couple will say them in a louder voice-which isn’t always the case. 

Some couples, though, want to write their own personal vows. Many of these couples are afraid that they’ll sound “cheesy.” I can honestly say that I’ve never heard vows that I thought were “cheesy.” Granted, some were more eloquently worded than others, yet all were poignant.  

How great it is that you have someone in your life who compels you to search deep in your heart for words that express the passion of your commitment! 

Be nervous about hundreds of eyes staring at you – don’t be nervous about saying something cheesy.

The committed heart is not able to offer cheesy sentiments. 

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

        

4 Lies That Sabotage Wedding Planning!

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor Frankl

true story

Two weeks after my ordination I officiated my first wedding. Beyond nervous, I was sweating and not just because it was a scorching New York June afternoon. I got to the church early to make sure the sacristan turned on the air conditioner (the church windows were sealed).

The church was packed – both the bride and groom were Italian and came from big families. Because it was a church service, the ceremony was slated to last about an hour. I’d rehearsed everything in my head at least a dozen times. I was anxious, but excited – this is what I had prepared so many years for.

Twenty minutes into the ceremony, I was dripping sweat under my robes. I noticed that family and guests were shifting in their seats. The bride and groom looked antsy.
I panicked. I was convinced that I was boring everyone! And so, I talked faster. With sweat pouring out of me, I decided to skip a reading; I cut out some prayers.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I zapped them with a blessing and pronounced them husband and wife.

Afterwards I hurried back to the sacristy and there found the sacristan embarrassed and apologetic. Turns out, he switched on the heat instead of the air conditioner. It was a humid 90 degrees outside and we all were trapped in a church that was blasting heat!

Throughout the ceremony, I thought I was sweating because I was nervous. I thought the guests were restless because they were bored.

Instead, we were all just ready to pass out from the heat! Later, at the reception, folks laughed and thanked me for having enough sense to cut things short.

This wacky story illustrates THE great truth ~

What we think influences what we feel
AND
What we feel influences what we think.

Have you had to change-up your wedding plans? Silly question as so many of you have had to make changes!

It’s hard for me to imagine what you have been feeling these past many months.

Everything is heightened when you’re planning your wedding. Now everything is even more heightened in this emerging “new normal.”

What are you more aware of in terms of how you communicate together? Patterns – rituals – dance steps?

Are they working or not working for you? Are they getting you and your partner what you need from each other – or – are they tripping you up?

What are you telling yourself in terms of how you should and should not feel as you assess the viability of your wedding plans?

Are those feelings helping you navigate the stress of planning or are they adding to it?

Emotions are neither “good” nor “bad.” However –

Emotions either allow us to react to people and situations in a healthy way OR they trip us up and cause us to sabotage our relationships and plans.

Emotions that prevent us from acting in our own best interest are grounded in some very irrational thoughts –lies – that we play so often in our heads we’re not even aware of them.

There are Four Lies in particular that can cause you to stress out while planning your wedding.

4 Most Common Crazy-Making Lies A Couple Can Buy Into

• You believe that everything must be perfect in order to be good.

• You believe that your wedding should involve certain people and elements no matter how uncomfortable they make you and your partner feel.

• You believe that there are aspects of the wedding planning that you cannot control and that you must give in to.

• You believe that you – and you alone – cause the feelings your family and friends experience during the long process of planning your wedding.

Buy into one or more of these lies and you’re destined for MASSIVE headaches.

To “vaccinate” against these stress-inducing thoughts, consider –

  1. If your original version of “perfect” is no longer viable, what is another, different, distinct version of “perfect” you could create that is not simple “settling?”
  2. If you’re going micro, you’ll now be able to lose all those +1’s. Who are the 20 most important people in your lives?
  3. You can’t control the pandemic or the CDC. Everything else you CAN! Do you believe that? How does it make you feel?
  4. If someone is annoyed that they’re not invited to your micro wedding then you need to reconsider why they are in your life?? Seriously.

Confront head-on the 4 lies that most readily sabotage wedding planning and you and your partner will be able to reimagine a celebration that truly celebrates you and your life together!

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!

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