More Thoughts On Writing Your Vows

All I know is what I have words for.


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:

  3. WE GO ALL IN.

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


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


My Grandparents’ 104th Wedding Anniversary!

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

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!

What To Do On The Day That Would Have Been Your Wedding Day


In a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. 

The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things—

all of it, all of the time, every day. 

You’re saying, ‘your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it.’ 

Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.’

From the movie, Shall We Dance?

On May 22nd I had the honor of officiating one of the most magical weddings I’ve ever officiated – the wedding of my goddaughter Meredith and her husband, Cole – thirty-two years and one week after I had officiated the wedding of Meredith’s parents, Stephanie & Ray!

They were supposed to be married on May 23rd at an outdoor venue that could host their two-hundred guests. Having had to postpone their wedding until November, they decided to still get married over the Memorial Day Weekend.

They reached out to me ten days prior, asking if they could do a “pop-up” wedding. Of course, I loved the idea!

Here’s a rough sketch of what we came up with:

We held the ceremony on a public deck overlooking the beach – Meredith and her parents and sister + Cole and his parents and sister + Natalie, a professional photographer and Meredith’s business partner.

The ceremony did not try to replace or replicate what we’ve already created for November’s celebration. It did celebrate what already exists – their vowed, committed love.

After I offered words of gathering, each family trio offered a shared reading (M + C selected two fav poems and divided each into three sections).

I then said some words of encouragement (yes, I got ‘em all sniffling!).

They exchanged traditional vows (in November they will gift each other with personal vows).

The sisters presented the rings.

And in the name of their families, I offered them a blessing.

Sweet. Simple. Intimate. All capped with a champagne toast!

It was not how any of us imagined we’d be celebrating Memorial Day Weekend. And what we did on May 22nd doesn’t replace what we’ll do on November 21st – BUT – we did honor their life and the mystery of these times we live in.

Every week since the beginning of March I’ve received emails and phone calls from my couples informing me that they’re postponing their wedding celebration until later in the year or even into next year.

People have been resigned, upset, disappointed, frustrated and determined. I can barely imagine the roller-coaster of emotions my couples – and their families – have been experiencing.

Postponing a wedding, though, is not like postponing a doctor’s appointment! For months (a year?) that wedding date has been your North Star. It was “the” date and there were engagement parties and bachelorette parties and bachelor parties planned in anticipation. So many dates formed because of your wedding date.

And now you’ve had to cancel that date and postpone the celebration.

You will remember this for as long as you both shall live!

But that original wedding date will always hold significance. It will be its own anniversary of sorts for the two of you. It cannot not be a special day.

And so I say – celebrate it!


Some way.

You can’t spend that day in sweats Zooming and Netflixing!

You don’t have to have a pop-up ceremony on what would have been your wedding day (hmm – there is a benefit to having a godfather who is an officiant!)

Here are other things you can do to honor what will always be a “special” day:

  1. Have a photoshoot – you had engagement photos so now have “shoulda-been wedding day” photos.
  2. Order from your caterer a special meal or a special dessert from your baker or flowers from your wedding floral designer – or, hey, all three!
  3. Make the signature drink from your wedding day and visualize your wedding day with all the sweetness and silliness you hope for.
  4. Share a bottle of wine from the year you first got together and travel virtually to where you first met – or to where you got engaged or to where you’ll go on your honeymoon – someday!
  5. Host a Virtual Reception / Zoom toast with family + friends.
  6. Practice dancing your first dance – which you can never do too many first times.
  7. Exchange private “pandemic” vows – what do you promise between now and the new date of your wedding?
  8. Surprise each other with “shoulda-been-wedding day” gifts.
  9. Invite family and friends to share in a Unity Candle ritual where everyone zooming lights a candle and then the two of you light your Unity Candle. Perhaps a friend could play live music during the moment.
  10. Reach out and send an email of thanks to guests + vendors telling them how much you value them and look forward to celebrating with them.
  11. Write a letter to each other, in which you describe what you hope your life will look like when you celebrate your 25th wedding anniversary. Place these letters in a keepsake box. Every year your could write a letter to each other on THIS anniversary, describing what the previous year has been like for you and what you hope for the coming year. Add the letters to the box. Don’t read the letters until your 25th anniversary.

A wedding celebrates what already exists –

SO – celebrate!

The day of your postponed wedding MUST be marked – that day will never be just another day!

Couples want a wedding that is personalized and unique – well – make sure your postponed wedding day is just as personalized and unique!!


Your Vows Are a “Sliding Door Moment”

Okay – you read the title of this post and thought, “What is a ‘sliding door’ moment and why are my vows such a moment?”

Good question!

Here’s a passage from Daring Greatly, one of my favorite books written by one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown. Read on –

What I’ve found through research is that trust is built in very small moments, which I call “sliding door” moments, after the movie Sliding Doors. In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.

Let me give you an example of that from my own relationship.

One night, I really wanted to finish a mystery novel. I thought I knew who the killer was, but I was anxious to find out. At one point in the night, I put the novel on my bedside and walked into the bathroom. As I passed the mirror, I saw my wife’s face in the reflection, and she looked sad, brushing her hair.

There was a sliding door moment.

I had a choice.

I could sneak out of the bathroom and think, I don’t want to deal with her sadness tonight; I want to read my novel. But instead, I decided to go into the bathroom.

I took the brush from her hair and asked, “What’s the matter, baby?” And she told me why she was sad. Now, at that moment, I was building trust; I was there for her. I was connecting with her rather than choosing to think only about what I wanted.

I am intrigued with that image of a “sliding door” moment – a moment that moves the relationship into deeper connection. If you think on it, isn’t it true that your wedding, your vows celebrates all the ‘sliding door” moments that have brought you to this moment in time?

And if you think on it, aren’t your vows a pledge to live life as one HUGE sliding door moment?!

A vow to turn towards and not away from each other. As simple and as ordinary as picking-up a hairbrush. . .

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

Gifts In a Pandemic

I’m constantly copying and saving articles and posts and quotes about weddings and marriage, collecting them in a folder, believing that someday they will inspire one of my own posts.

What has happened, though, is that the collection has grown and I’ve forgotten what’s in it!

Thanks to the pandemic, I’ve had time to take on those “someday” projects, one of which has been to go through that wedding folder.

Here’s a quote that intrigued me when I first came across it – and that still intrigues me:

“The hardest part of marriage isn’t learning how to get along with your spouse, but rather coming to grips with what you learn about yourself as you relate to your wife or husband.”

This quote reminded me of an email a former UCLA Extension student sent me. Rachel wrote:

I need to stop being defensive when someone close to me criticizes how I do something.

This has recently surfaced in my personal life between my fiancé and I. As we’ve embarked on the journey of planning our wedding, we’ve gotten into several arguments that end with him telling me that he doesn’t know what to do because upon being criticized or told that something I’ve done or my parents have done has upset him, he feels I go straight to being defensive and that I’m not taking care of him and his feelings.

I want to find a better way of communicating with him about these sensitive and emotional things because I know that he and I and our families all want the same end goal, but we have very different ways of getting there.

And most importantly we all agree that we want this process to be fun and enjoyable since we’re celebrating such an exciting occasion.

As these conversations come up, I’ve been trying to slow down so that I can process what he’s saying in an unbiased way.

I feel I need to do a better job of stopping the conversation and making sure that I’m encouraging him and acknowledging the things he has done well before responding to the things he has done that have bothered me or react to his criticizing something I or my parents have done.

The reason I think things go sour when they do is that my fiancé feels like I am focusing on the negative and not celebrating the successes. He ends up feeling that I’m disappointed in him and that he’s screwed up and he shuts down.

Wow! This was a HUGE breakthrough for Rachel – and her fiancé – and their relationship.

And so I invite you to consider –

During these days of quarantine, have you learned anything about yourself – anything that you want to change about yourself?

Has your partner?

But there’s more. . .

Way back in 2011, when he was 30 years old, Justin Timberlake (who, by the way, was a groomsman at a wedding I officiated ten years ago) gave an interview in Vanity Fair. At one point, he reflected on marriage and said:

“I think the mistake is that people commit to who that person is right then and not the person they’re going to become. That’s the art of staying together, is changing together.”

What a great insight! Marriage as the art, skill and commitment of changing together.

If that’s true, then I invite you to consider. . .

During these days of quarantine, have you changed in any way?

Has your partner?

Are you happy with the changes?

And, of course, THE question that makes these two quotes really intriguing is –

Will these insights impact how you continue to plan for your postponed wedding?

In what ways?

My hope is that your post-pandemic, “new normal” wedding, will be a deeper, richer celebration because of what you and your partner experienced as the world turned upside down!


Reimagining Your Wedding In The Time of Pandemic

When you and I first met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing.

Now it is growing into something as we remember it.

But still we know very little about it.

What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die,

what it makes in me all my days till then –

that is the real meeting.

The other is only the beginning of it.

C.S. Lewis

This past week two more of my couples postponed their wedding date until next year. I can barely imagine the emotional roller-coaster ride they been on. That you’ve been on!

As I’ve listened to many of my couples and as I’ve talked to many of my colleagues in the world of weddings, I hear a lot of talk about, “when we get back to normal.”

The thing is – I’m not convinced we’re returning anytime soon to “normal.”

I think all of us – you, the couple, and we who help create your celebration – need to reimagine what a wedding can look like and feel like and sound like in a “new normal.”

To reimagine can be an exciting undertaking (I know – easy for me to write).

In this post, and in posts to follow, I share my own musings on weddings reimagined!

Magicians in fairytales utter special words to bring about their desired outcomes. Words still bring special moments to life – two of the most powerful words being, “I Do.”

Here’s what I think is the power of those words.

Couples often tell me, we can’t wait to start our life together. The truth, though, is that your life together began the moment you first met. 

Your wedding is your pledge to honor that meeting. To honor all the good that it has made of you and all the good that it will make of you all the days of your life together.

Your wedding affirms, seals, and embraces that meeting with the giving of your word: I Do.

I Do promise to continue to become the best and bravest person I am meant to be. 

I D promise to support and cheer on you, partner as you become the best and bravest person you are meant to be.

That is what your wedding celebrates.

true story

I officiated a wedding in a chapel built on the grounds of a retirement home. The chapel had been built by the bride Emily’s great-grandfather. It was there that he officiated the wedding of her grandparents. Tradition and family made this space especially sacred.

Emily and Adam were glowing as they stood before me, ever present to the moment. And then, as I was speaking, Emily spotted something on Adam’s jacket. Instinctively, she reached across and flicked it away. Everyone laughed, though they seemed clueless to our reaction.

It was an exquisite moment. That one gesture spoke to the reality of marriage – caring in simple ways – reaching gently across to help each other.

With the flick of her hand, Emily created magic. And it was that magic we had all come to celebrate.

It is that magic your wedding celebrates.


You protect and keep each other sane when you are guided by the understanding that your wedding celebrates the life you and your partner have already created and pledge to continue to create in honesty and joy.

Sanity Saver Questions

To Help You Reimagine Your Magical Wedding

  1. Visualize your wedding day as you imagined it in the early days of planning. What did you want your wedding day to look and feel like? Be as specific as possible. Have you and your partner been on the same page throughout planning? Where have you differed? Do you each know why certain details have been important to the other?
  • Imagine that there are only seven things from your original vision that you can have in your reconceived wedding celebration. What would be on each of your lists and why?
  • Ask yourself, “If I don’t have _______, how will it affect my memory of our wedding celebration?” Will it ruin your memory or simply create a different memory?
  • Why did you decide to throw a wedding celebration and not elope? Are those reasons still important to you? Can you reimagine how those reasons can look in a new celebration?
  • On you 25th wedding anniversary, what do you want to most vividly remember about your wedding day?
  • It has been said that the hardest part of marriage isn’t learning how to get along with your spouse, but rather coming to grips with what you learn about yourself as you relate to your partner. What have you learned about yourself in the pandemic and how will that knowledge help you as you reimagine your wedding?

Focus on the magic and you and your partner will be able to reimagine your celebration!

When Love Is as Simple as Changing a Light Bulb!

The Sunday edition of The New York Times is known for many wonderful sections, including its Weddings section. 

Each week they profile a couple with a unique or whimsical angle to their story.

This item – which appeared in The Times 17 years ago – is one of my all time fav tales of love and marriage. I was utterly charmed by it when I first came across it and remain charmed by it. I think you will be, too. . .

Read it and then ask yourself –

What light bulb can I help my partner change?

The New York Times

July 13, 2003

By Lois Smith Brady

Before Cheryl Kleinman married Frank Palombo 10 years ago, she was a wedding-cake maker living in Greenwich Village with her beloved cat, Betty.

She was single, footloose and artsy.

He was a practical divorced electrician with two young daughters.

She had grown up in a small Jewish family in New Jersey, while he belonged to a large Roman Catholic Italian clan on Staten Island.

On their 10th anniversary this week, she expects that he will give her something like a power saw or glue gun. For her birthdays, he has built her a screened-in back porch and a marble fireplace.

Ms. Kleinman said, “There were times when I thought: ‘What was I thinking? I should have married a nice Jewish boy who knows I want diamonds for every birthday.'”

She then added: “But I’m really glad we’re so different. I don’t know how to screw in a light bulb. Without him, I’d be living in the dark.”

May you and YOUR partner always live in the light!

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!