Puttin’ On The Ritz!

Last month I officiated a wedding at The Ritz down in Dana Pt.

As is my custom, I arrived an hour before ceremony start time so as to settle in and gather my thoughts for a final time.

After checking base with the event planner, I took a stroll behind the lawn. And that’s where I spotted the couple to whom this post is dedicated.


They looked to be well into their ‘70’s. The man was in a wheelchair and his wife was pushing him. She pushed the chair up to a fence that bordered the perimeter of the bluff.  Once he was close enough, he reached over to the fence and pulled himself up. The wife put her arm around him as they looked out. I thought, “how sweet.”


But then he turned to his wife, cupped her face in his hands and they began to kiss – energetically. I was startled because the scene went against the scenario I’d mentally created for them – old couple; probably cranky; affectionless not to mention sexless––hope she doesn’t push him off the bluff!


I know, none of this sounds very kind on my part, but, hey, if you knew my relatives, you’d know why I came up with this oh-so-wrong snapshot!

I was deeply moved by the sight of them. Their bodies may have been worn, but their tenderness was strong. And apparently their love was as vibrant as the love my couple, Christine and Nelson, was celebrating that day!


Before a couple exchanges rings, I have them hold hands and remind them that “these are the hands of your best friend.”  My reminder to them ends with the line, “and these are the hands, even when aged, will still reach to you with the same touch that comforts you today.”


I’ve liked the image of that line; but, I’m not sure I’ve ever really understood the profoundness of it until I watched this couple, as the wife stroked her husband’s face (you’ll note that I’m presuming they were married and not having an affair!).


I went on my way and officiated the ceremony that was touching in many different details. Afterwards, as I walked to the lobby, I passed the cocktail lounge and who should I spot having a martini, but – my couple from the bluff!


I broke into a wide grin as I thought. . .so you’re in your 70’s, use a wheelchair, but you’ve got a wife you still make out with (in public) and can cap it off with a drink at The Ritz.  WOW! Now that’s the good life!


May your life be just as good. . .

What I Learned About Weddings From A Golf Pro (you’ll be surprised!)



Even though I begin this post talking about golf – it really is a wedding post!


When I’m not officiating weddings, I’m a corporate communications coach and trainer (https://thebusinessofconfidence.com).  I offer workshops on what’s commonly referred to as “soft skills.”  However, as you know there’s very little “soft” about customer service, team building as well as managing all those difficult conversations!


Last year I began coaching professionals in the world of golf  – long story!  Up until last year, my experience on the greens was limited to miniature golf. While it will be a long time before I don’t feel self-conscious playing, I have learned a great deal about the sport and the giants who’ve made it the avidly popular sport that it is today.


One of those legends is Sean Foley, who is one of Tiger Woods’ former coaches.  Recently, I read an article where he was asked this question: “You’ve always said that golf would never define you.  Do you still feel the same after taking on Tiger?”


Here’s his answer:

“Golf instruction is what I do for a living, but it doesn’t define who I am.  I’m not here to revolutionize golf instruction.  I’m here to touch the individual lives of the people that I work with.  I was raised on the idea that when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night the goal is to leave the world in a better place than you found it.”


Foley is much respected in the world of golf and it is remarkable that he can say that golf doesn’t define him.


His answer challenged me to think about what defines me.


In addition, it got me thinking about weddings (which I’m more times than not thinking about) and what a wedding actually celebrates.


Does a wedding celebrate what defines YOU?  Does a wedding celebrate what defines YOU as a COUPLE?


In order to say “I Do” to another person, don’t you need to be able to say what defines you?


And can you really venture forth into the unknown future together without knowing what defines you as a couple?


Sean Foley has a very clear sense of what his defining goal is when he wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night.  Do you, individually and as a couple, have just as a clear a sense?


I know – kinda an odd questions for a wedding blog BUT. . .


I think knowing who you are as a couple, knowing who you want to become, is the surest way to helping you be and become the people you want to be and become!





Marriage Is. . .



A while back I reached out to couples I had married, asking if they would complete the sentence, “Marriage is. . .”


For some reason, I thought this would be easy to do BUT it hasn’t been. Many couples wrote, “We know what marriage is, yet it’s hard to put into words!” And that makes sense since, at times, marriage can be like the air you breathe.


I officiated Jade and Susan’s wedding several years. I think the photo captures so much of who they are – and their joy reminds me why I love officiating weddings! They recently sent me their response to “Marriage is. . .” and I’m happy to be able to share it here on the blog. . .


“Marriage can be so many things – good or bad, short or long. It can make life easier or introduce all kinds of struggles. But a beautiful and everlasting marriage is an unmistakably remarkable thing.

A miracle.

A blessing.

A feeling and power only the two of us share and truly understand.

It is a step in the right direction, every time knowing the path we walk, we walk together.


I have known and loved Susan for nearly half my life. Some describe her as an extraordinarily caring, compassionate, and creative person, but she is normal to me.

Normal, in the sense that she is my “every day.”


She is my constant, my ground level, my reference, both my dreams and my reality. I embrace the privilege of marriage and find it necessary, requiring it to function and live out life’s intended purpose.


Marriage sometimes enunciates and justifies contradictions – I am not me without you and you are not you without me; my soul is freed so long as it is bound to yours; calculatingly avoiding pain and death for years, yet not hesitating to sacrifice oneself for the sake of your loved one – your family.


The unity of marriage gives us strength in character, yet consistently challenges us to reinforce our commitments to love and responsibly being loved. We conjure the spirit of Love to redeem the ultimate feelings of joy and have learned that when we threaten or disregard it, we can expect in return the most unbearable pain.


Marriage is the everyday commitment to cultivate love and share in the many treasures that radiate from it.  Our strength is refined as we hold our confidence and cling to one another, despite knowing some, perhaps many, inevitable obstacles lie ahead.  Our togetherness is and will always be the ultimate reward for our marriage.

We are dedicated, exclusively, to one another, sharing in the responsibilities of anything and everything important to the other, sometimes even knowing the other “better than they know themselves.”  In this marriage, we recognize that life is bigger than you; it is lived for two (plus Junior, maybe someday?).  In our marriage, we learn to accept being rightfully wrong and avoid the pursuit of being wrongfully right.


By engaging in and being bound by marriage, we understand that our togetherness is always still an option and could easily be taken for granted if not nurtured properly.  Marriage is a vow made in the context of unnaturally dictated terms – eternity.  That is, every day our love outlasts the gauntlet of the universe, we overcome a statistically improbable chance that soul mates wandered the earth and found the one, yet we promise to prove this again, and again, and again.  And although outwardly we demonstrate the beauty of marriage to our friends, loved ones, and peers, we know the true value of our love lies within our hearts and this bliss is life’s ultimate best kept secret.”


Jade & Susan Thiemsuwan


What Is Your Definition Of ‘LOVE’?

I recently read a blog post in the Weddings section of The Huffington Post titled “Do We Really Know What Love Is?”

It’s a provocative title and an even more provocative entry. Vicki Larson begins by saying:

Love is why we marry, or at least that’s what many of us believe. . .That’s fine except, what is love? Many of us are stumped to define it, and even those of us who can define it often find that others may not agree with our definition. Yet we all have an idea of what love is.

A friend, a college professor who teaches a class in love, says her students are terrified of having to define love, terrified by the idea that love should even be defined. Hate, narcissism — they have no problem agreeing on definitions for those. But love? They shrug, a defeatist shrug, and say, “Well, it’s different for everyone.”

Is it? If love is different for everyone, then what love are we talking about when we’re building a marriage around it or divorcing because we no longer have it? What love are we talking about when we insist people marry “for love”?


It got me thinking––what is my “definition” for love?

Hmm. . .one of my favorite reflections on love comes from the writer Marguerite Yourcenar who described her ideal partner as:

Someone who bolsters our courage and approves, or sometimes disputes, our ideas; who shares with us, and with equal fervor, the joys of art and of living, the endless work which both require, never easy but never dull; someone who is neither our shadow nor our reflection, nor even our complement, but simply him/her self; someone who leaves us ideally free, but who nevertheless obliges us to be fully what we are.


What is your understanding of love?

Your partner’s understanding?

Can you put it into words?


Let how you understand love guide you in the creating of your ceremony!

The “Promise” Too Many Couples Forget To Make With Their Vows

My brother Peter and his wife, Beth, have been married for twenty-five years – and they are twenty-five years that they’re grateful for! Last week I was talking with Peter and out-of-the-blue he remarked, “I can’t believe how many people I know are getting divorced.” Sadly, I was surprised that he’s surprised.

His shock, though, got me thinking about weddings (something I do a lot of). Almost every weekend I officiate a wedding and every weekend I encounter people who are dressed to impress and ready to party – selfie-taking people who are palpably excited for “their” couple. In light of Peter’s comment, I’ve been wondering – what is it that people are celebrating? Is it the “forever” or is it the generosity, the courage and the hope of the couple?

Each week I stand before a couple and bear witness to their vows and as they pledge some version of, “for better or for worse” I wonder if they understand what they’re actually saying. I think most couples don’t understand. How could they? We can only understand the future by living it.

Couples often ask me for advice on how to write their vows. While I’ve written posts on the “how,” that technique doesn’t really address the deeper question – what are your vows “vowing”?

In order to write your vows I think you need to reflect on these four questions. You don’t need to say aloud in your vows the answers to these questions BUT your answers will inform what you write:

  • What would be the hardest thing that would pull the two of you apart?
  • What would be the ultimate joy you could experience as a couple?
  • What is your greatest fear for the two of you?
  • What is your greatest hope for the two of you?

Thornton Wilder, in his play The Skin Of Our Teeth, has one of the characters make this observation:

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect. I didn’t even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them–it was that promise.”

And so I come back to that earlier question –

what is it that we’re celebrating at a wedding?

I think it’s that “promise” – the rough and tumble rawness of that promise a couple makes to each other.

But maybe what is just as important is for each person to also take a promise to her or his own self because if you don’t make a promise to yourself, how can you make a promise to another?

Here’s what I hope you promise your self – that you will:

  • Let no one treat you as ordinary
  • Let your home be the gateway to the world and not a hiding place
  • Feel – and not let your feelings make you a victim
  • Learn to make bold mistakes AND
  • Tame your regrets over those mistakes so that they do not overshadow the gifts of the choices you made

The poet Emily Dickinson maintained,

“That Love is all there is is all we know of Love.”

 Trusting in that truth, may the world be a better place

because you love each other!

Go Ahead – Cry!


true story

Lindsey had been engaged for ten years and sobbed so hard during the ceremony she wasn’t able to complete her vows. She said enough of the vow so I moved on as I didn’t know what else to do. After the ceremony, Lindsey was annoyed, wanting to know why I didn’t help her stop crying!

Couples often tell me that they hope they won’t cry at the ceremony. Why? Why not cry? And if the groom cries, guests will slip an extra $50 in the envelope as they feel they got their money’s worth!

Your wedding is one of the most emotional moments in your life, for reasons you can name and some you’re not able to name.

I assure couples that I will remain strong for them. And I usually do, though there have been exceptions. I cried at my brother’s wedding. I cried at the weddings of each of my close friends. And I’m not someone who cries easily.

I cried under a Chuppah nestled in the courtyard of a four hundred year old Catholic chapel. It was in a town about an hour outside Mexico City. The bride was Mexican Catholic and the groom was Jewish, from Philadelphia. Underneath the Chuppah, along with the three of us, was a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After exchanging vows and rings, as the couple presented their mothers with roses, the bride’s cousin, a Mexican actor, sang Ave Maria. It was a teary-eyed, goose-bump moment. Why?

The sheer beauty of these good people was exquisite – Jewish and Christian, coming in faith and hope and love, to a remote village, to transcend all that could pull them apart.

How can you not cry when life is so deep down good?

I cried in a vegetable garden (trust me, I really still haven’t seen it all). The wedding took place in a funky desert resort owned by the bride’s aunt. The ceremony was in the vegetable garden.

The bride’s father escorted her down the dirt path. She wore a veil that every bride in her family had worn. The air literally shimmered from the desert heat. The DJ played “The Blue Danube.” The bride and her father looked like they were walking on water. And under a mulberry tree the couple gave their word to each other.

How could we not cry at the earthy simplicity and sheltered trust of it all?


Why do we cry at weddings?

I think it’s because of the intense sweetness of the moment – and the sheer audacity of the couple’s hope.

Ultimately, I think it’s because our tears are the surest way to honor the truth and goodness of the moment.


How Not To Waste Your Partner’s Love!

photo: RyanBrenizer.com


What my marriage taught me is that real love is only what you give. That’s all. Love is not “out there,” waiting for you. It is in you. In your own heart, in what you are willing to give of it. We are all capable of love, but few of us have the courage to do it properly. You can take a person’s love and waste it. But you are the fool. . .Love is joy. Those who love, no matter what indignities, what burdens they carry, are always full of joy.

Recipes for a Perfect Marriage


I recently came across this quote and presumed it was another sappy sentiment on love and commitment, but I stopped when I read the phrase, “You can take a person’s love and waste it.” I’ve never really thought about how I could “waste” someone’s love. I suppose I’ve focused on how a person could waste my time (and love) but not how I could waste theirs.

What does it mean to waste a person’s love?

Kind of a no-brainer question, but still I’ve been reflecting on it. The dictionary definition for “waste” is: to use, consume, or spend thoughtlessly or carelessly; to pass without being put to use.

If you think about it, at the heart of your vows is the promise not to waste each other’s love – not to treat each other thoughtlessly or carelessly and to always put the love your partner offers you to good use.

I like that notion of actually putting each other’s love to good purpose.

While love makes no demands, in order to experience love fully you have to believe that you’re worthy of love. And to receive the love of another person is to feel energized.

If you feel loved, then you have to feel energetic in wanting to do some good, to make less bruised this crazy world of ours.

Love is always offered in a spirit of hope – hope that despite whatever messiness there is in the beloved’s life, she or he, because of our love, will be able to make sense of it all and create a meaningful life.

To believe in your partner’s love is to believe that their love speaks truth to any of your fears.

If you waste your partner’s love, you’re wasting an opportunity to become more fully you and so it is true for your partner and your love.

I think that in this exhausting world of ours, to love mindfully and generously is a wildly brave thing to do.


Go wild!

What Was Your Favorite Wedding Ceremony?

photo: diannahenderson.com


When I meet with a couple, one of the first things I ask is:

“Is there anything you know you do want or anything you know you don’t want in your ceremony?”

Brad and Darlene (names changed), the couple I met with today, told me they weren’t sure what they wanted, even though they’ve been to over a dozen weddings in the past two years. They said that they all had become just a blur.

But then Brad excitedly turned to Darlene and reminded her of the wedding of their friends Jared and Kathy. Darlene in turn got excited and agreed that the ceremony had been beautiful.

However, when I asked what about the ceremony they liked, they drew a blank – they couldn’t remember anything specific!

They just remembered that the celebrant offered words that touched them and that spoke to their own relationship.

As they chatted a bit longer about the wedding, it became clear they couldn’t remember much of anything – just that it was a wonderful experience. I laughed because they proved what I have always maintained.

People don’t remember details so much as they remember the feel and tone of your celebration.

I’m sure Jared and Kathy put a lot of thought and care into the planning of their ceremony and reception, but what Brad and Darlene remembered was the joy and love that went into the day and not the particulars.

I think this is vitally important to keep in mind as you plan your celebration.

So ~

  • What was the most moving ceremony you’ve witnessed?
  • What made it memorable for you?
  • If you can’t recall the particulars, why do you think that is?

Let your answers to these questions help guide you in your own planning.

Saying “Yes!” To Who You Could Become

photo: jasmine starr


I saw that I would love him,

and that loving him would mean

saying yes to the self I would become

by loving him,

and no to the other selves

I would never become by not loving him.


I don’t know who made this observation – but, I’m deeply moved by the truth expressed.

I think the truth of this quote speaks to why making a vow to another person is such a profound act.

In a real way, you’re vowing to become the person you could only become through the loving of this particular partner – and no other.


Now that’s deep.

And courageous.

And generous.


What I’m In The Business Of –

The other day I was on line at a Starbucks when a man tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and had no idea who the guy was. He smiled and asked if I was “JP”. He then told me that I had officiated his wedding 9 ½ years ago in Westlake Village. Suddenly, I recognized Fred and certainly remembered his wife, Rosanna. I was blown away that he remembered me!

Fred told me that he and Rosanna were grateful that I had been a part of their day and that they still smile when they look at photos of their ceremony.

I was very moved – and I share this, not to give myself a pat on the back BUT to let you know that Fred reminded me that I’m really not in the business of marrying people.


I’m really in the business of creating happy, life-giving memories.


And for that, I’m grateful. . .