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Putting Your Wedding Day In Perspective

For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.  

It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.

Judy Garland

Earlier this week I officiated a micro-wedding for an out-of-town gay couple that had decided to combine their wedding and honeymoon. They invited just ten relatives and friends. The ceremony was held at their hotel that had a breath-taking roof-top view of LA.  

When I arrived, Frank clasped my hand and said, “I’m so nervous, I don’t know if I can say my vows.” I reminded him that there would only be ten people, to which he nervously responded, “that’s a lot!”

The point is, it doesn’t matter if you’ve invited ten people or twenty times ten people. It doesn’t matter if you’re straight or gay. A wedding is an out-of-body experience!  

While I “get” why people are nervous, at the risk of sounding obnoxious, I have to ask: “But why are you nervous? What are you telling yourself that makes you scared?”

I know this is a heretical statement – BUT – your wedding day is not “the” most important day of your life.  

Your life together is an ongoing series of most important days!

I think your wedding day is “the” day that can be a touchstone for all those other “most important days.”

       

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Not so Long Ago. . .

I am gobsmacked to realize that THIS is the kind of ad my mother was exposed to when she got married!

More, More Advice On How To Write Your Vows!

I want to be your friend forever and ever.
When the hills are all flat and the rivers are all dry.
When the trees blossom in winter
and the snow falls in summer.
When the heaven and earth mix—not till then will I part from you.
The Yueh-Fu

true story

Ben (names changed) called me the day before his wedding in a panic: “how do I write my vows?”  I was surprised because Ben had struck me as an organized guy. Besides, he’s a violinist and often plays at weddings, so he’s heard many, many vows. In that moment, though, he sounded like a drowning man! 

 

I told him to just speak from his heart, but this only confused him more:

“How do I do that? What else should I do?” 

“Nothing, just speak from your heart.” 

 

I reminded him that a vow is not a pre-nup. 

It’s a pledge of the heart and, as such, is not a detailed listing of everything that he’s going to do and not do in his marriage.

His vow is but an echo of what is deep within his heart.

 

Ben and his fiancée, Marissa, had been high school sweethearts and dated throughout college. She, too, was a musician. 

 

At their ceremony, Ben made his vow first (as is tradition). Marissa’s eyes were glistening as he spoke movingly from his heart.

 

When Marissa went to speak, she was so overwhelmed with the intensity of the moment that she reached out for my hand. I thought she was just giving my hand a squeeze so as to steady her nerves. But, she held my hand tightly throughout her vows. 

 

I’ll always remember that moment.

 

Not just because it was the first and only time that a bride held my hand while offering her vows!

 

Not just because I felt self-conscious.

 

I’ll always remember that moment because it was achingly tender.

 

Over the last twenty-five years I’ve officiated many, many ceremonies and so I easily can forget how difficult it is to find the words to let someone you love know that there are no words to describe your love.

 

Ben was not the last groom to call me sounding desperate. 

 

Jason was a groom who still had not written his vows by the time I arrived at the ceremony site. 

 

I calmed him down by reminding him that his fiancée, Ellen, would kill him if he didn’t have thoughtful words to offer her! 

 

We found a quiet place away from his groomsmen. I scrounged around for some paper on which he could write his vows and then left him by himself. 

 

Jason thought he’d be debonair and wrote his vows on his tux jacket’s pocket-handkerchief. He started to sweat during the ceremony and at one point wiped his forehead with the handkerchief – and, yes, he wiped away his vows! 

 

And while Marissa is still the only bride to hold my hand, she’s not the last bride to cry while saying her vows. 

 

Cheryl sobbed so hard that she wasn’t able to get through her vows. When she seemed unable to say anything more, I gently moved on to the exchange of rings. 

 

After the ceremony, annoyed with me, she wanted to know why I hadn’t done something to calm her down. Short of throwing a glass of cold water in her face, I didn’t know what I could have done!

 

I don’t think anyone can teach someone how to compose a vow. 

 

A toast or a speech? Sure. 

 

A vow, though, is such an intimate expression of devotion that it defies instruction.

I still believe that writing your vows is as simple as “speaking from your heart.” 

 

The act of writing your vow is an opportunity to:

  • slow down
  • create time to retreat into your heart
  • consider why you’re promising what you’re promising to whom you’re promising in this crazy world of ours

 

In terms of the practical side of writing your vows, I urge you NOT to:

  • worry about crying while offering your vow
  • worry about how long it will take to say the vow
  • worry if your sentiments are corny or cheesy – I’ve never heard vows that made me roll my eyes!
  • share your vows with each other ahead of the ceremony as they should be a gift

 

In terms of giving structure, order and flow to your vows, what I’ve noticed works most elegantly is:

  • Begin with a memory, an anecdote, a story of a moment in time when you suddenly realized that your partner was “the one.”
  • Grounded in and flowing from that memory, tell your partner what you appreciate, treasure and value about them.
  • Grateful for the memories and gifts, state what you vow to do and be for your partner.
  • Somewhere in the midst of all this, be sure to say, “I take you as my husband / wife” because that little phrase turns your words of love into a vow.

 

It really is that simple!

 

I’m always honored when a couple invites me to bear witness as they give their word to each other—as they enter into the mystery of life and love. 

 

It is an exquisitely intimate moment.  

 

I’m in awe of the generosity and courage, the hope and faith people show in that moment of giving their word, which is their life to each other.

 

I salute you and cheer you on!!

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

Love – “in sickness and in health”

I love you not because of who you are,

but because of who I am when I am with you.

Herman Hesse

Over the years I have gotten spoiled as I’ve officiated at some wonderful 4 and 5-star resorts. One of my favorites is The Montage in Laguna Beach.

I’ve been using the quarantine as an opportunity to sift through old files and notes I’ve kept with the intention of turning them into blog posts. Well, here’s a “snapshot” memory I am only now getting around to sharing with you. . .

I was early for Yvonne and Bijan’s ceremony at The Montage. I grabbed a corner table in the lounge. The piano player was doing his thing, filling the room with heartening classic lounge numbers.

As I was reviewing my notes, I noticed a couple (70’s) at a nearby table. The wife was in a wheelchair and from the way her body was positioned it appeared she had some sort of neurological disease. On one side of her sat a Nurse Aid and on the other side sat her husband. 

At one point, the woman’s husband reached over and rubbed her shoulder while held her hand. So gentle. So tender.

I thought of Yvonne and Bijan. Of the vows they were a little more than hour away from gifting each other: “in good times and in bad – in sickness and in health.”

I again was reminded that there is no way any bride or groom can fully comprehend the depth and scope of those words!

I then happened to glance on a young man a few tables away (30’s). He was intently reading a Bible, highlighting passages in yellow marker. He seemed so out of place in this 5-star resort lounge.

He looked not only intense – he looked unhappy.

I thought if only he would lift his head out of the Bible and look over at the couple, he would see the truest meaning of Scripture – Love.


Late Fragment

Raymond Carver

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.

And Even MORE Thoughts On Writing Your Vows

I’ve been spending these pandemic days perhaps much like you – by watching a LOT of Netflix!

I’ve come late to the Netflix phenomenon having resisted the allure and selling of the streaming service. And so, I’ve been bouncing all over the selections, embodying that old cliché, “like in a kid in a candy shop.”

What does my Netflix binging have to do with this week’s post? Well, while I give high marks to the heartwarming “Say I Do!” series it’s from a new trending movie I’ve gotten my inspiration. 

The movie – The Old Guard.

According to the blurb, the Old Guard is an “American superhero film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and written by Greg Rucka, based on his comic book of the same name and follows a team of immortal mercenaries on a revenge mission.

The film stars Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

I’m really not into superhero flicks and not into SyFi – except ­– when I’m bored out of my mind!

Besides, it stars Charlize Theron so it had to have some substance.

The movie was entertaining and I give it “two-thumbs up.” BUT – I’m not here to do a movie review. 

I want to tell you about one particular scene that involves two male characters, Joe and Nicky. 

Joe (Muslim) and Nicky (Catholic) met and killed each other while fighting on opposite sides in the Crusades. Since they’re immortal they kept on fighting each other in different battles over time – until they fell in love (none of this is shown) and became fierce lovers through the ages.

Now, in this current time, they’ve been caught by the “bad guys” and are being transported in a heavily-armored vehicle. The guards taunt and mock them for being lovers. 

It is in this moment that Joe calmly, fervently spits back at them these words, professing his love of Nicky:

This man is more to me than you can dream.

He’s the moon when I’m lost in darkness, and warmth when I shiver in cold.

His heart overflows with the kindness of which this world is not worthy of.

I love this man beyond measure and reason.

He’s all and he’s more.

Who would have guessed that such stab-me-in-the-heart words of love would be uttered in a SyFi action flick?!

As you wrestle with finding the words for your vows perhaps you can take inspiration from a battle-worn Crusader!

More Thoughts On Writing Your Vows

All I know is what I have words for.

Wittgenstein

It’s not often that I get to quote the tortured philosopher Wittgenstein in a wedding post! I like that notion, though, that we can only know what we have words for.

When not officiating weddings I’m a corporate communications coach and trainer. One aspect of communications that I emphasize in my workshops is that words have power. Words are magic BECAUSE words create reality.

Think about it. 

Do you recall in the early days of dating, how you would introduce your partner simply with their name. Then, one day, you said, “This is my boyfriend. . .” “This is my girlfriend. . .” and with those simple words there was a shift in the nature and quality of your relationship!

And now you’re searching for the words for your vows – words that honor the reality of your relationship – that honor who you are and who you want to become alongside this person.

It makes sense that brides and grooms more times than not feel intimidated by the task!

How do you find the words for what you know?

Vows are a commitment. 

Vows are a promise. 

And vows are act of gratitude. 

So, yes, you need to know what you are prepared to promise, to commit to doing and being. BUT, before you can promise and commit, you have to know what you are grateful for – in your partner – in your own self – in the life you’ve created already.

This means, you need to remember and acknowledge what your life is built on – what the life you’ve created together is built on.

Success coach Marla Diann believes:

The tool to guarantee a successful, well-lived year is making a list of your top 10 values and living by them every-single-day.

The only way to break through FEAR is to know your top values and make daily decisions by those. 

The symptoms when we don’t live by our values are: drama, lack of enjoyment, mundane existence, discontentment, confusion, uncertainty, to name a few.

Perhaps before writing your vows, you and your partner go off and write down what you understand to be your own Top 10 Values + your top 10 Values as a couple.

Remembering your values – together – will offer you clarity as you head off to compose your vows.

There’s more. . .

Matt Cheauvront of the award-winning ad agency, Proof Branding, maintains he and his team are: 

committed to the daily completion of these simple, yet purposeful 6 things in an effort to actively pursue the core values we espouse:

  1. WE FOCUS ON PEOPLE.
  2. WE KEEP IT SIMPLE.
  3. WE GO ALL IN.
  4. WE HAVE FUN.
  5. WE LEARN EVERY DAY.
  6. WE’RE HONEST.

Okay, I know that you and your partner are not an ad agency (at least I presume you’re not!) BUT as you set about writing your vows, I invite you to consider – what are you committed to in your daily life together?

It strikes me that Matt’s credo actually makes for a solid couple’s credo:

 focus on each other’s needs 

avoid needless drama 

go all in when you agree on something  

have fun in what you do together 

learn each day from each other 

be tenderly honest with each other

Hmm. . .now those are some vows!

One of my fav writers, Elizabeth Gilbert, described “soul mate” this way:

A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A soul mate’s purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in. 

Exhilarating. And scary in a way!

I hear that term, “soul mate” frequently in the exchange of personal vows. 

What does that term mean to you? 

To your partner? 

And have you had a conversation prior to the start of your ceremony in which you explained how the other is your “soul mate” and how you want to live out being their “soul mate?”

In one of his poems, e.e.cummings writes this wonderful image:

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

As you go about writing your vows –

Don’t worry about your nerves.

Don’t worry about crying.

Don’t worry.

Simply gift your partner with your vows – with your ears awake and your eyes opened!

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

Taking a Vow To Say “Yes!”

Without words, without even understanding, lovers find each other.  
The moment of finding is always a surprise, like meeting an old friend never before known.
 
Lao Tzu

One of my favorite business-related books is David Whyte’s, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship. It’s a hard-to-classify book – part practical / part philosophical / part poetic. I found it to be both heartening and challenging. I’ve spoken about in my monthly business newsletter and reference it now – here on my wedding blog – because of the following excerpt:

A friend of mine met her future husband by arriving je-lagged in Los Angeles from London, determined to do nothing but go home, shower and sleep. 

She called a friend to come and pick her up, misdialed the number and got an ex-boyfriend who was very surprised to hear from her but very excited about a theater event for which he was setting off at that moment. 

He insisted she come with him. My friend ignored the invitation, said thank you but no thank you and went home. 

Twenty minutes after she got in the door, the bell rang, and her ex- boyfriend turned up and with great good humor insisted it wasn’t about starting their relationship again; he asked her to get her things on and come. 

Tired but beautifully dressed in a subtle green robe that her husband still remembers to this day, she walked into the reception line at the event and fell in love with a man she had never seen before who turned to watch her walking past, with whom she now has two children andwith whom she has just celebrated her twentieth wedding anniversary. 

One tiny conscious “no” on the surface could have closed off that path into her future marriage and parenthood forever.

You have to bow before the mystery of life and love!

So often, when I ask a couple how they met, they tell me a “I almost didn’t go. . .” kind of tale. I’m an utter sucker for this kind of story!

Over and over I am struck by how different a couple’s life would be if they had not each said “yes” to that random invite.

Your vows are many “things” – 

In their essence, though, your vows are a vow to saying “Yes!” – together – to the myriad invitations life offers you.

And you vow to honor those wild yeses because you each have vowed to be on the other side of that YES!

i knew you

before

i met you.

i’ve known you my whole life.

Nayyirah Waheed

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

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My Grandparents’ 104th Wedding Anniversary!


In a sense, the person we marry is a stranger about whom we have a magnificent hunch.
Unknown

Today would have been the 104th wedding anniversary of my paternal grandparents – Mary Agnes and John Joseph.

As you know, all families are odd (you do know that, yes?) even the happiest and mine is no exception.

It wasn’t until this week that my brother Peter and I learned my grandfather’s name for certain.

Growing-up it was unclear what the man’s name actually was. No one – not even my grandmother who had been his wife – could recall his name. My father was 7 years old when his dad died, so I cut him some slack for not recalling his dad’s name. BUT. . .

My grandfather died from walking pneumonia at the age of 33. 3 years before the discovery of penicillin.

Just 12 years after he had immigrated to the US from the hamlet of Tarmonbarry, Ireland.

Just 9 years after he married my grandmother.

Just 8 years after he’d become a father to his only child – my father.

My grandfather was a young man when he died.

So young.

Just a few years older than my nieces are today.

When I was a boy I was fascinated with the lone photograph of my grandfather. (see above)

He was handsome. Dashing. Serene.

He looked like an adult to me.

Now I look at his photo and I barely see an adult.

I see a young man with the future in his eyes.

104 years ago, in NYC, this man married my grandmother. And together they set in motion my own eventual birth.

I know virtually nothing about him.

What his voice sounded like. 

What kind of laugh he had. 

How he looked when he was angry.

Distant relatives used to say that he had been “such a lovely man.” And that all the neighborhood kids loved him.

My grandmother said they met at a party. She played the piano and he played the violin. I LOVED that two-sentence story (and she never offered a sentence more).

I never heard my grandmother play the piano. And if my grandfather had a violin she tossed it long before my brother and I were born.

104 years ago, these two people said, “I Do!” – until death do them part – which came so much quicker than any gathered with them that day could have predicted.

And that’s the thing about a wedding. It is this BOLD – BREATH-TAKING leap of faith.

They leapt.

Sitting here, I wonder why – what made each willing to say before God, “I do.”

My grandmother hardly ever spoke of him.

Where did that love go?

How did that love shape her?

Sustain her?

And what of that love found its way to me. To Peter?

My grandmother never remarried. She devoted herself to my father.

She adored Peter and me.

She feared – and respected – my mother.

She became a NYC Corrections officer and hung-up her billy club at the age of 72.

She was known as the “Rose of Riker’s Island.” Love that!

For a while they loved – in a time when society was innovating and the world was at war – they loved to the place of commitment.

104 years ago, they had no way of knowing that their grandson would, in the next century, officiate weddings and help couples celebrate what they did in 1913 – take a brazen, love-induced leap of faith.

They met.

They laughed.

They kissed.

They stood nervously before a priest.

They figured out how to make a baby.

They loved their son.

And then this man died.

Too soon.

They met.

They laughed.

They kissed.

They made beautiful music together.

And then he disappeared.

Almost without a trace.

She became the Rose of Riker’s Island.

Their grandson became a wedding officiant –

And takes a piece of their love with him into every ceremony.

These were the two most popular wedding songs at the time my grandparents got married!

Named “Best Officiant” by California Wedding Day Magazine!

For the 3rd year running, I was named Orange County’s “Best Officiant” by California Wedding Day Magazine.

Voting is reserved to wedding professionals and so this honor is especially sweet.

I am a very lucky guy as I get to collaborate with some of the most talented, kind and generous people you will ever find on planet Earth!

They continually help me do what I love to do – help YOU celebrate your great day. . .

Shift Your Mindset – Staying Sane While Planning Your Wedding!

The pessimist complains about the wind.

The optimist expects it to change.

The leader* adjusts the sails.

John Maxwell

I came across this short (very short) video on one of the business sites I visit regularly.

As I was posting it to my communications consulting site, The Business Of Confidence, it occurred to me that the tips offered in this video would be helpful to couples in the throes of wedding planning.

And since wedding “planning” now also means “postponing” I think these tips will be even more helpful.

Happy shifting!

*and so too the engaged couple planning their wedding!