What Do You Want Guests to Remember from Your Ceremony?

Last Saturday I officiated the wedding of Stephen & Monique (names changed), a couple who are friends of Steve & Katie, a couple whose wedding I officiated last year. 

Stephen had been one of Steve’s groomsmen and now Steve was one of Stephen’s.  In fact, Stephen’s other three groomsmen had been groomsmen for Steve, as all the guys had been in the same fraternity at UCLA.

I wanted to make sure that at Stephen and Monique’s ceremony I didn’t say any of what I had said at Steve and Katie’s wedding. 

But not only could Stephen and Monique not remember what I had said, not even the groomsmen could remember! 

Each reassured me that although they couldn’t remember my words, they’d been touched by the ceremony and my sentiments.

After the ceremony, I asked Katie, last year’s bride, if I had repeated what I’d said at her wedding. 

She laughed as she, too, couldn’t remember what I had said.  All she knew was that she felt as refreshed at this wedding as she had at her own.

When I coach professionals in public speaking, I remind them that all sorts of studies confirm that after a presentation people forget 50% of what they heard by the time they get home and they will forget 50% of the 50% by the next day. 

I stress that before giving a presentation, a speaker needs to know what it is they want their audience to remember.

A wedding is a unique type of presenting and this weekend I was reminded of what I sometimes lose sight of – family and friends will not remember my exact words, but they will remember the feeling and tone I create – they will remember the experience I create.

I recently met with a couple who are getting married next year.  When I asked them if they know what they want or don’t want in their ceremony, they told me about a boring wedding they’d attended. 

While they couldn’t remember what the officiant had said, they remembered how the ceremony had a disjointed feel about it, how nothing that was being done or even said made sense.  They felt like they were simply observers, onlookers at an odd event.

Another couple I recently met with originally were going to marry last year but with less than a month to go they called it off.  They’re now at a place where they know they are necessary in each other’s life and are ready to marry in a way they were not the first time. 

To my surprise, they told me that they couldn’t stand the officiant they had hired, but they didn’t care as he was cheap and saving money had been their priority. 

The bride shared that now the ceremony is the most important part of their wedding day and she wants it to be meaningful.

So, what is this “thing” we know as a wedding ceremony?

Strip away the clichés, religious and civil, strip away the pomp and circumstance, and what you’re left with is – an exquisite moment in time.

A ceremony acknowledges and affirms (and blesses) the simple and lovely miracle of these two persons, alive on earth at the same moment, pledging to live all the remaining moments of life together.

Despite its power, or maybe because of its power, a ceremony is a fragile experience. 

It’s not a vehicle for lecturing or venting. Rather, it’s a moment in time in which everyone present does something out of the ordinary – they give thanks for the brave generosity of two people.

Maybe it’s because it is so simple that a ceremony is so tricky to execute.

Last month I officiated eleven weddings that together had over one thousand guests. 

Given the opportunity to speak to a thousand people was a privilege I cherish.  I wonder about all those wedding guests – What will they remember of the ceremony? 

What do I want them to remember?

While I’ll never know what they remember, here’s what I hope they will remember:

  • That they were part of an invited group who witnessed something extraordinary – the pledging of love between two people – love faithful, protective and sturdy.
  • That despite the fact that life can be exhausting – life is good and worthy of our best – and because they joined in the feast, they will continue to live life and not slog through it.
  • That we need one another – whoever that “another” may be, so that we can live with generosity and courage.

Maybe, though, all I want them to remember, is this –

That they experienced a moment where they felt valued and appreciated because they valued and appreciated a couple who said “yes” to life in all its messy, uncertain glory!

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


7 Tips to Help You Listen to Yourself and to Your Partner



When we talked, I felt brilliant, fascinating;

she brought out the version of myself I like most.

Nadir Alsadir



true story

Ashley and Dan invited me to have pizza as we finalized the ceremony details. It was going to be ninety degrees the afternoon of their outdoor ceremony and Dan reminded me he wanted it kept barebones short.


As he droned on, I noticed Ashley was quiet and no longer smiling.


Her family was Roman Catholic and not happy that she wasn’t getting married in the Church. At our first meeting, she said she wanted a ceremony that wasn’t rushed.


As Dan dove into his pizza, Ashley took out some tissue. She was clearly upset, so I asked her to tell Dan her concerns.


Caught off guard, he put his pizza down and listened as she blurted out her fears that the ceremony was going to be hurried and too short.


He was surprised and admitted that although Ashley had told him what she wanted the ceremony to be like, he’d forgotten what she’d said.


In the weeks leading up to this final meeting, he hadn’t really listened to her.


As they continued to talk – and listen – they were relieved to discover that they both wanted the same thing.


Dan’s idea of “short” was no more than twenty-five minutes. He didn’t want the full-blown one-hour Catholic service. Ashley didn’t want that either. She wanted a twenty to twenty-five minute ceremony, which she thought was just right and not short.


It’s been said that listening is the greatest act of love.


If so, then the greatest thing you can do for each other is to listen to each other.


Text messages. Emojis. Scribbled notes. We do business and live our lives in a swirl of information.


Yet, how often are we actually communicating, listening? 


I know you have a gazillion things to juggle, professionally and personally.


But, why go to the expense, time, and emotional investment of your wedding if you aren’t going to be present to it – and to your partner?



You protect and keep each other safe when you talk with each other.  Really talk—silly to serious.


You can’t plan your ceremony, your wedding, or your life, without talking.


Real listening keeps you on the same page and helps you to remember what’s important and why it’s important.


Your wedding vow, in its essence, is a vow to listen to each other

in mutual fidelity and perseverance.



7 Tips to Help You Listen to Yourself and to Your Partner

  1. Get rid of all distractions. Yes, turn the TV off and agree not to answer any phone call. You’ll have time for all those other things later. Don’t ever multi-task when talking about wedding “stuff” – particularly your vows!

  2. Listen openly to what your partner has to say without becoming defensive, even if you don’t readily agree with what he or she is saying.

  3. Let the other person complete their thought. Don’t interrupt or finish each other’s sentences.

  4. Engage your partner in genuine conversation. Don’t deliver a monologue or a scolding.

  5. Ask your partner to explain what he means, she means, if you don’t understand his thinking or her take on things.

  6. Pay attention to the feelings that lurk underneath what your partner is and is not expressing.

  7. Paraphrase back to your partner what they’ve said, so you confirm that you do understand what they’re saying. Ask for clarification.



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!





What Helping High School Seniors with Their College Application Essays Taught Me About Wedding Vows!

A human life is not a life until it is examined;

it is not a life until it is truly remembered and appropriated;

and such a remembrance is not something passive but active. . .

the creative construction of one’s life.

Oliver Sacks

Occasionally, I like to offer a post that isn’t directly related to weddings BUT is kinda, sorta wedding themed and THIS is one of those “odd” postings!

This past week I was an instructor at a three-day college essay writing boot camp for seniors at a private high school here in Los Angeles. 

As you may know, part of the college application process requires at least one, sometimes two essays. 

The prompts are common to all schools. Now, I know you’re busy checking out Pinterest and Instagram accounts, but, for a moment, check out some of the prompts that my high schoolers wrestled with:

  1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
  • Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  • Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
  • Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you.What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
  • The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you and what did you learn from the experience?

So why am I sharing these prompts with you? 

Well, it occurred to me – I wonder if you and your partner know each other’s answers to one or more of the above prompts? 

If you don’t, now may be a good time to share some stories you’ve not told each other before.

Couples come to me wanting a personalized ceremony. 

THE way in which to personalize your ceremony is to write your own vows. 

I can guarantee that if you know each other’s stories to the above prompts, you will be able to compose vows that are as authentic and as genuine as vows can be!

Happy story time!

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


Marriage = One Long, Grand Conversation!

photo: jesse leake


A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short.

Andre Malroux


 true story

One night I grabbed dinner at my favorite local bistro. The staff knows me and brings me “the usual” without my having to ask. I was lost in a book when I happened to glance up and look across the room. Two tables lined the opposite wall.


At one sat a young couple in their twenties – laughing, animated.


At the other table sat an elderly couple in their seventies – talking, smiling.


I thought – now here’s a snapshot of marriage – not so much “before” and “after” as “early” and “later.”


Except for the wrinkles, little differentiated the older couple from the younger.


Smiling, talking, laughing.


The German philosopher Nietzsche claimed that in its essence,

marriage is one long, grand conversation


The simple truth is that a lifetime of hearty conversation is the surest sign of love.

I’ve officiated over one thousand non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural wedding ceremonies and I’m now convinced that THE question every couple needs to explore before sending out their invitations is this –


What does your wedding celebration mean to you?


You need to be clear on your answer at the beginning of your planning because in the hubbub of organizing for your wedding day, it’s easy to lose sight of just what the day means to you and your partner.


In the chaos of planning, you’ll be surprised at how little time you have to talk to each other.


So at the beginning of the process, before you dive in, talk about the ceremony and your vows.

Go some place you both enjoy.

Make a date with each other.

Turn off the cell phones. 




Remind yourselves why you’re doing this craziness.



10 Questions You and Your Partner Need to Explore

Before You Lose Yourself on Pinterest!


  1. Who are your role models for marriage? Why are they models? How realistic a model are they?

  2. When people speak of your wedding, what 3 words do you want them to say? What 3 words do you not want them to say?

  3. Is your wedding day a beginning or a touch point in your life together?

  4. What was the most joyful wedding you’ve attended? What do you want to be the most joyful moment of your wedding day?

  5. Is your partner your life OR does your partner give you life?

  6. What makes your partner worthy of your love? What makes you worthy of your partner’s love?

  7. What are your expectations of each other? Do your expectations make each of you the best you are capable of being?

  8. What is your biggest fear for your life together?

  9. What is your definition of success? As an individual? As a couple?

  10. On your 25th wedding anniversary, what would you like to look back upon?


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!







What 1 Word Describes YOUR Partner?

photo: anne edgar

“Mr. Fleiss said that he has a French aunt

who settled upon a word

that best describes JoJo (his wife):


‘It means having the quality of warmth,’ he said.

‘Imagine a snowy evening in the mountains, you see a log cabin with

a fire roaring — a feeling of home, of warmth and heart.

For me, that’s what JoJo is.’”

Yet another quote I picked-up from somewhere and have no record of where.

But I love the image the unknown Mr. Fleiss paints of his wife.

Intimate and desperately romantic.

What about you, what word best describes your partner? 

Do they know this is how you think of them?

If you’re writing your own personal vows, how can you include this word?

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

The Odd History of Marriage

I’m constantly reading other blogs, along with magazines and papers and so I’m constantly clipping and saving tidbits I find interesting. Oftentimes, though, when I return to the clipping, I can’t recall why I had saved the info or where it’s from!

And so it is with this item. . .

Recently, I was sorting through a bunch of posts I had saved regarding weddings.  I have no idea where I got the following, but apparently it’s a review of a book written by Mark Ishee, titled, “Wedding Toasts and Traditions.” 

I checked on Amazon and the book is now out-of-print. However, I love the info provided in this review – stuff related to the history of marriage I never knew. 

This brief history might put your own planning into some perspective!

The author points to three stages in the history of marriage: marriage by force, marriage by contract and marriage by mutual love.

Marriage by force is indicated in our earliest historical record.  A man captured a woman, generally from another tribe.  This testified to his strength in warfare.  The earliest “best man” aided a friend in the capture of a bride.

According to Ishee, the honeymoon is a relic of the days of marriage by capture.  Frequently the tribe from which a warrior stole a bride came looking for her and it was necessary for the warrior and his new wife to go into hiding to avoid being discovered. 

The “honeymoon” evolved as symbolic of the period of time during which the bride and groom hid until the bride’s kin grew tired of looking for her!

It is clear why marriages by contract developed in time: the revenge exacted by one tribe on another for taking one of their women was costly.  At some point, compensation began to be delivered for the stolen woman in an effort to avoid vengeance.  Preventing tribal warfare and compensating furious family members led to a property exchange: livestock, land or another woman would be exchanged for the bride.

As Ishee points out:  “The very word “wedding” betrays the great stage of wife purchase through which marriages passed.  The ‘wed’ was the money, horses, or cattle which the groom gave as security and as a pledge to provide his purchase of the bride from her father.  From this ‘wed’ we derive the idea of ‘wedding’ or ‘pledging’ the bride to the man who pays the required security for her.

As time went on, this ‘bride’s price’ took the form of elaborate presents given by the groom to the bride’s parents.  Negotiated over long periods of time, sending and receiving constituted that the marriage contract was sealed. 

In some cultures, land, livestock and other valuables were given to the groom in the form of a dowry.  These goods were offered as compensation to the groom when he assumed the burden of supporting the woman.

Such practices of marriage by contract lasted in England until the middle of the 16th century.  The modern practice of ‘giving the bride away’ has its roots in the belief that the bride was property given by the father to the groom.  In fact, the phrase ‘to have and to hold’ comes from Old English property transactions.

Marriage by mutual love was rare until fairly recently.  You did not marry for love; rather, you were expected to love the one you married. 

Ishee states: “It was not until the 9th or 10th century that women gained the privilege of choosing or refusing their husbands according to their own judgment.  Rare exceptions to this are recorded since primitive times, where women claimed the right to select their mates.”

The practice of elopement was an early aspect of marriage by mutual love.  It allowed a woman to marry a man of her choosing, rather than one who met her parents’ specifications.

Adapted from: Alternatives / Georgia

“Outward signs of Inner Values”

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!

And Now a Word From Meryl Streep!

In her Oscar acceptance speech for playing British P.M. Margaret Thatcher, Meryl Streep spoke directly to her husband, saying:

“Everything I value most in our lives, you have given me.”

What a stunningly poignant thing for a person to say to their spouse! 

And so I invite you to consider these questions as you prepare to offer your vows:

  • Can you say the same thing to your partner?
  • What do you value most?
  • What does your partner value most?
  • What do you together value most?

And if you don’t know the answers to these questions, then WHY are you getting married to this person?!

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


The Real Woman Creed


I came across this item and filed it away. I’ve got two nieces and five goddaughters and I thought this was something I’d like them to read (and embrace!). . .


It then occurred to me that this is actually a wonderful “creed” for any bride and so I’m sharing it here.


I’ve looked for “The Real Man’s Creed” and couldn’t find one. Grooms – any suggestions as to how your creed should read?


The Real Woman Creed

By Jan Phillips, CA

I believe that within me lies an extraordinary radiance, and I commit to letting my light loose in the world.

I believe that the source of my power and wisdom is in the center of my being, and I commit to acting from this place of strength.

I believe that I possess an abundance of passion and creative potential, and I commit to the expression of this gift.

I believe that the time has come to let go of old notions and unhealthy attitudes, and I commit to re-examine what I have been told about beauty and dismiss what insults my soul.

I believe that negative thoughts and words compromise my well-being, and I commit to thinking and speaking positively about myself and others.

I believe it is my spiritual responsibility to care for my body with respect, kindness and compassion. I commit to balancing my life in such a way that my physical being is fully expressed and nurtured.

I believe that joy is an essential part of wellness, and I commit to removing obstacles to joy and creating a life of exuberance.

I believe that a woman who loves herself is a powerful, passionate, attractive force, and I commit, from this day forward, to loving myself deeply and extravagantly.

Desperately Romantic Sentiments Offered by Brides and Grooms!

photo: the ponces photography


Couples will sometimes ask if I have copies of vows offered by other couples.


I don’t.


Because your vows are such an intimate expression of your love, I don’t feel comfortable keeping copies to use as “examples.”


However, sometimes a bride or groom will utter a sentence that stabs me in the heart and I jot it down.


This post is a sampling of some of those jottings.


Note: I actually did not officiate the ceremony for all of these couples. Some of these sentiments I found in other places. Also the photos do not match up with the actual couples.


However, I think you’ll be as moved as I am by some of these sentiments!



I think love isn’t something you necessarily fall in to but you ascend to.

She presented enough challenges early on for me to ascend to not only love her


to be worthy of her love.

Jon-Sesrie Goff of his wife Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich





Together we will leave the world a better place.

Kirk Spahn vows to Jennifer Alden





I vow to show my love so often, that you see it when you close your eyes.

Alejandro Gac-Artigas to Lisa Gibes





Of my own accord I present myself, my days, my nights and my life.

I present them freely and willingly

because they cannot be better spent than in your company.

Melissa Richard to Frank Oteri





In the days leading up to the wedding, I’ve felt like I’m wading

into a pool of joy and I don’t know the depth of the joy yet.

Nathaniel Peters of his marriage to Barbara Jane Sloan





You have helped me become the woman I didn’t even know I wanted to be.






I don’t know if I’m even brave enough to love someone as brave as you.





I vow to know and receive you deeply and with compassion.





Forgive early, kiss slowly, love wholeheartedly, laugh loudly

because life may not be the party we all hope for.

Yael Raz, the bridegroom’s mother

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


Have You Ever Asked Your Parents –


Love doesn’t sit there like a stone,

it has to be made, like bread;

remade all of the time, made new.

Ursula LeGuin


I recently officiated the wedding of a couple where the bride’s parents were in the midst of divorcing after thirty years of marriage.


I felt for the bride – and knew I could not imagine what she must be feeling and experiencing.


As I prepared for the ceremony, I found myself thinking about the bride’s parents.


I kept wondering – how will they feel?  What will they think during the ceremony?


Many of the couples that come to me were raised by single parents or within blended families. Perhaps that’s true of you and / or your partner.


I know this might seem like an odd question – or even an impertinent question, BUT. . . did you ever ask your parents why they divorced?




Have you and your partner talked about what you are going to do in your marriage so as you don’t recreate the mistakes of your parents?


AND, if your parents are still happily married, have you ever asked them why?


I suspect their ‘secret’ is not a secret!


Have you and your partner talked about what you like best in your respective parents’ marriage and what you’re going to do to recreate it in your marriage?


And if you haven’t asked these questions, THEN why haven’t you?!



And If you have been married before, have you and your partner talked about what you learned from that time and experience in your life?


Have you talked about how the mistakes you once made are not going to be remade?


The first duty of love is to listen.


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.