Why No Two Weddings Are Alike!


As you know, some weeks are more interesting than others – and for me, last week was one of those weeks!


On Sunday, I did a baby blessing for Don and Leslie (all names changed). I officiated their wedding seven years ago. They both had been raised Catholic but are not regular church goers and so they didn’t want a formal baptism. Their Catholic roots, though, tugged at them – they wanted to do something to welcome and celebrate little Brett’s arrival in this world, in their family.


And so we had a blessing with family and close friends – people I first met seven years ago on another day of blessing. It was all so simple and so poignant. Leslie read a quote I had used at their wedding:


“A wise woman of old once wrote that, ‘It is the quality of life that matters most. The taste of the food on the table; the light in the room; the peace and wholeness of the moment. Perfect love casts out fear and the only perfect form of love found on earth is the wordless commitment of family.’”


Into such a world we welcomed Brett.


On Tuesday I was on line at a Starbucks in Glendale. I was checking email when a man tapped me on the shoulder. He was smiling, “JP, you probably don’t remember me, but I’m Fred and you married me and my wife Rosanna almost ten years ago.”

I did remember them and I was so happy to reunite.

Fred went on, “We still smile when we think on our ceremony and I just want you to know that I’m probably more in love with Rosanna than I’ve ever been.”


Starbucks was never so good. . .


On Thursday afternoon I went to the Pasadena home of Mark and Terry. They’re both at an age when AARP regularly sends them materials and because they’ve been together many years they’ve decided it’s time to marry and legally protect their life together.  BUT, they really do want a big wedding celebration – later in the year, though. And so they decided to have a “secret wedding” with just two close friends. It was held in Terry’s home, which had belonged to her grandmother.




It was a lovely way to spend a weekday afternoon!


And then on Saturday I was off to Orange County to officiate the wedding of RJ and Alice, who were more than half the age of Mark and Terry. Over 200 friends and family came to cheer them on in their commitment.


Maybe it’s because their wedding culminated for me a week of special moments, I found myself especially moved as they offered their vows to each other.


There is so much hoopla surrounding a wedding, as well there should be. But what this ceremony-packed week showed me, reminded me, is that a wedding celebrates a couple’s commitment to honor and relish and live the ordinary routine of daily life.


WHAT do they all this week’s moments have in common? 


I think it can be summed up in this quote from the movie, “Shall We Dance?”


“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet. I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. 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.’”


That’s what all these couples were doing – bearing witness to each other’s lives.

And I couldn’t be happier or more honored that they invited me to share the celebrating of that witnessing!


If you want to learn 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 the Words “In Good Times & Bad” Really Mean


As a non-denominational wedding officiant I get to meet many people – it’s one of the reasons why I love what I do!

After a ceremony I’ll sometimes be stopped by a guest who wants to share their story with me and sometimes I’ll get an unexpected email from a person who attended one of my ceremonies.

Vivian (name changed) is a friend to the mother of one of my brides from earlier in the year. This is an excerpt from an email she wrote me:

Four years ago my husband Jake was terminated from his job at the age of 59. As you can imagine, he experienced depression and a loss of identity. Because he had two open-heart surgeries in the previous ten years, he didn’t have it in him to begin a new corporate career. He prayed for direction, asking to be shown a way. 

Originally, he came to LA to be a comedy writer. Through a series of events, he now has his work on GoComics.com. He receives mail from many who thank him for the smiles, saying his cartoons helped them through chemo and other difficult life events.

The inspiring thing about my husband’s journey that motivates me is that life is full of opportunities, often unknown, and that every day is a new beginning – perhaps the opportunity to reinvent oneself, to dare to try something we always dreamed about.


I am moved by Vivian’s tribute to Jake – which was really her tribute to their married life.

As a wedding officiant I am privileged to witness the giving of so many couples’ vows. And while those vows can swerve from the very silly to the very profound, Vivian’s admiration of Jake reminds me that in its essence the marriage vow is grounded in thanks and hope.


Vivian reminds me that there is no gratitude without hope.


To give thanks for what we can see also acknowledges that there is more to come because “every day is a new beginning.” However, I think it’s easier to say, “I’m thankful” than it is to say, “I’m hopeful.”


That’s because real hope is always big and it requires that we have a generous attitude looking to the future. And that takes courage. Vivian and Jake, each and together, are courageous people.


I’m challenged by Vivian’s story because I don’t think I’m a hopeful person. I think “to hope” can seem like it’s leaving things up to chance and I don’t want to take a chance on chance because I’m never lucky!


And I don’t think I’m really a grateful person because I’m never satisfied. I keep pushing myself without pausing to take stock of what I’ve accomplished and what has been given me.


So what to do? 


Live from cautious hope?

Live with meager thanks?

That simply won’t do.

I think we’re asked to do what Jake and Vivian did.


Vivian loved her husband by bearing witness to his pain and struggle. And in Vivian’s unwavering gaze, Jake was able to remember what he’d forgotten – his love of humor.


And so, somehow, in that mixture of faith and hope, fear and love, together they were able to strive to create anew their life – present and future – despite the sirens of the unknown. 


I think that this is the truest of loves – the love that a wedding honors and celebrates!


What about you? What are you promising in your vows??


I am a Los Angeles-based non-denominational wedding officiant. During the last twenty years, I’ve officiated over one thousand non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural weddings.


For more insights and tips on the writing of your wedding vows

check out my book:

How to Write Your Vows: Giving Voice to What Is Deep Within

What Do You + Your Partner Talk About?


Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.



I came across a posting on The Atlantic Magazine website titled: What Kinds of Happy Couples Eventually Get Divorced?

I think this is the first time the word “divorce” has appeared on my blog, as it’s a phenomenon I don’t want to have to think about!

However, as a business communications coach (The Business of Confidence), I was interested in the answer to that question:


In a new study, the researchers followed 136 married couples who all reported being very satisfied in the first four years of their marriages. They questioned each spouse periodically over a period of 10 years, asking them to rate statements about marriage satisfaction, level of commitment, personality traits, stress levels, problem solving abilities, and how supportive they were with their partners. Some skills and traits were rated by the researchers, as the couples discussed relationship difficulties in the lab.


Couples who went on to divorce were more likely to be poorer communicators and tended to display more negative emotions and support mechanisms than people who stayed married.


Although I’ve officiated over one-thousand non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural weddings, I really haven’t seen it all – but I have seen a lot.


And when it comes to couples – via my work as an officiant and pre-marital communications counselor – I’ve seen more than enough to be certain of two things:

  • The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of the communication in your life.
  • How you communicate with each other in the planning of your wedding is a sure indicator of how you’re going to communicate after your wedding.


So, my question(s) to YOU is:

Are you happy with the way you and your partner communicate?

Is there some aspect(s) of how you communicate that you want to replace

with a more effective and less stressful way of communicating?


Here’s the thing. . .

Flip through any wedding magazine and most likely you’ll come across an article with a title such as: “8 Nitty-Gritty Must-Have Conversations Before You Walk Down the Aisle.”


The article will challenge you to reflect on the conversational health of your relationship with a list of questions such as:

  • How do we feel about having kids?
  • How will we handle money?
  • Who cleans the toilet?
  • What about the in-laws?
  • What don’t we agree on?
  • How do we keep the sparks flying?
  • How will we balance work and play?


These are ALL essential questions – and my hope is that a couple has answered these questions before coming to discuss the ceremony with me.


If they haven’t, then I offer communication coaching that helps a couple hone their skills.


The novelist Andre Malroux claimed that –

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


The question is: what do you and your partner talk about?

 Here’s a list I put together of 25 “non-nitty gritty” questions that are fun, silly, intriguing and revealing. 


In some respects, these questions are just as important as the “serious” questions I posed above.

How many of these questions have you asked each other?

How many answers do you know?


Happy talking!


  1. What has been one of the most memorable experiences in your life?
  2. What is an experience that challenged you but ultimately made you a better person?
  3. How have you touched another person’s life (for the good)?
  4. What do you think is the weirdest thing about life in general?
  5. What is one way in which you’re mean to your self?
  6. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
  7. What is the best compliment you’ve ever given?
  8. What is the worst insult you’ve ever received?
  9. What is the worst insult you’ve ever given?
  10. What is the best text you ever got? The worst?
  11. What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
  12. What are five things you’re grateful for?
  13. What was your favorite childhood toy?
  14. What was your favorite childhood game?
  15. What was the best movie you ever saw as a kid?
  16. How are you different today from when you were in 5th grade?
  17. What is the biggest mistake you ever made?
  18. What is the failure you’re most proud of – because of what you learned from it?
  19. What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?
  20. What are five silly things you’d like to try at least once?
  21. What are your five favorite words and why?
  22. What is one thing you don’t understand about yourself?
  23. What are you most self-conscious about?
  24. Who or what do you find intimidating?
  25. Who is the smartest person you know and why are they so smart?



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!





The 4 Most Important Words to Say to Your Partner While Planning Your Wedding!


Carly Cylinder, owner of Flour LA, is a florist that provides nontraditional designs for weddings and events using eco-friendly flowers. While I’ve not had the pleasure of working with Carly, I very much want to after reading her posting in The Huffington Post.

From her vantage point as a florist, she writes about what she thinks are the four most important words a couple can say to each other:

When I meet couples for the first time during their consultations for wedding flowers, do I, the lovely innocent florist, make subliminal summations on the probable longevity of their marriage? Of course I do! And I think I’ve got it down to a science. . .

I’ve noticed that there are some couples that you meet where you know that this is meant to be. They didn’t settle, they found love, they make each other laugh and it is just easy. Although her fiancé may not give a damn if there are roses or dahlias or freesia or mums in their wedding, she will ask him, “What do you think?”

This one little question, four little words tied together to show a mutual respect, is one of the best, if not the best, questions couples can ask each other. Those are the four words that can predict the success of a marriage. This applies to any aspect of life: from asking each other’s opinions about where to eat or where to vacation to decorating the home to bouncing business advice off each other — asking “What do you think?” shows that you value your partner’s opinion.


From my vantage as someone who offers pre-marital communication coaching, I think this is a great insight.

And from my vantage as a non-denominational wedding officiant, I know that it’s true there are (many) aspects of wedding planning that a groom, by virtue of being a guy, is not going to be either excited about or interested in.

Yet, I believe your wedding is not some kind of a reality-themed party simply celebrating the whims and likes of the bride.

Your wedding is a celebration of the life you have created and of the life you pledge to continue to create. “What do you think?” can only truly be asked if the two of you have been talking about your shared vision of your celebration.


As I tell every couple who comes to me for pre-marital counseling, the core truth is –

the quality of your life is based on the quality of the communication in your life.  “What do you think?” is a question that speaks directly to the quality of your relationship.


I’ll also add ~

If you’re a groom, please remember that when your fiancée asks what you think, she really does want an answer! I’ve met with couples where the bride asks her groom, “what do you think?” and he shrugs his shoulders, grunts and says, “I don’t care.”

I’ve never met a bride who felt reassured with that answer.


Here’s the thing – I don’t think you can “not care” about your wedding and still care about your marriage.

You may not have a strong opinion about flowers, you may feel overwhelmed with the politics of the seating chart, but to say you “don’t care,” well that’s something entirely different.

If you don’t feel strongly about some aspect of the wedding, say something like, “I don’t have a preference, so I’m happy with what you decide.”  Those words will have a positive impact, rather than tossing off an “I don’t care.”


Caring enough to share your thoughts, opinions, needs and wants will go a long way to reducing

the stress that comes with planning your wedding.




If you’re a bride, please remember that you can talk about your wedding for only so many hours in the day!

Throughout your engagement, make sure that you and your fiancé consciously, deliberately talk about non-wedding related “stuff.”  Even though you’re engaged, there really is still more to life than the wedding!


Let “what do you think?” be laced throughout all your conversations

and not just the wedding related ones.



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!

8 Things I Know for Sure About Weddings

lauren louise photography


I’ve officiated over one thousand non-denominational wedding ceremonies here in Los Angeles and throughout the country. More times than not, couples inevitably tell me that they’re worried they’re going to cry their eyes out.


I laugh and encourage them not to worry because my experience has been that the brides and grooms who say they will cry often times don’t while the ones who say they’re not going to cry end up needing a paper bag to breathe into!


I say, “cry!” – make-up can be reapplied.


But why are weddings such an emotional experience? Maybe it’s because a wedding, in its essence, is a breathtaking act of generosity and courage.


After all these years, after all these weddings – non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural – no matter the size of the guest list, no matter the faith, culture or sexual orientation of the couple – here are


8 Things I Know for Certain About Weddings


Every couple has a story AND every bride and groom IS a story.

We need a witness to our lives. 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 unwitnessed because I will be your witness.”

Shall We Dance?


I love listening to a couple tell me the story of how they met because in the telling I get a glimpse of who each person is. In listening to how they were surprised by love, listening to why they are grateful to their partner, I get a glimpse into the story of who they are.


I marvel at how all couples are similar AND how all are vastly different. Each has a story of how they got to the point of planning a wedding with this person out of all the billions of people in the world.


Because a wedding celebrates the co-mingling of stories I feel inspired and cheered, challenged and moved!


The planning process gives clear evidence

of the strengths and weaknesses of the couple – as a couple.


To fall in love is easy,

But it is a hard quest worth making

To find a comrade

Through whose steady presence

One becomes the person one desires to be.

Anna Louise Strong


No matter how intimate or how large the guest list, a wedding presses buttons that trigger everything from anxious insecurity to indescribable joy. And if you pay attention, all those stressors, all those reactions to those stressors, indicate who the person you’re marrying is at this point in time.


The quality of how you communicate during the planning reveals the quality of your life after the honeymoon!


A wedding speaks to the core aspects of a couple’s identity –

family, culture and religion.


Explore and discover that which is within.

When we find ourselves, we are more easily found by others.

Lao Tzu


In order to say “I Do!” there needs to be an “I” and the planning of a wedding invites, challenges and demands that each person ask, “Who Am I?” in relation to their place within a family, within a culture and within (or without) a belief system. What have you incorporated from each? What have you rejected? And how has all of that gone into making the “I” who will say “I Do”?


A wedding calls forth memories – good, bad and glorious.


In that book which is my memory,

on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you,

appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life’.



A wedding is a grateful celebration for the past. From the moment of the proposal on up to the last dance, accurately or inaccurately remembered memories trigger emotions. And all those memories influence how you react to stress, along with what you expect and ask of your partner, your family and your circle of friends.



A wedding challenges a couple’s relationships with family and friends.


The best part of life is when your family become your friends

and your friends become your family.

Danica Whitfield


People can forget that the wedding is not about them. People you thought you could rely upon disappear because of their own mystifying reasons. People on your “B List” generously surprise you. Parents speak and act out of love laced with protective fear in ways that can confuse, exasperate or delight. Parents want the celebration to reflect a reality that simply doesn’t exist or that doesn’t match the reality of who you are as a couple. Weddings challenge your capacity for surprise.


A wedding is an act of faith.


However richly inspired by love,

Marriage is a high wire act

That is usually attempted by two nervous wrecks

Who just go for it,

 Reeling with bliss and blind with the hots. 

The rest is work, faith and destiny.



Each of you only knows so much of who you are today. There are aspects of “you” that you’ve not yet explored and figured out – and so it is with your partner. The great act of faith is that you say, “I’m going to create a future with you. Of all the people with whom I could create a future, I choose you because you have, united with me, what I need to create a life-giving future – for me, for us.” Because we can’t predict the future a marriage is a glorious high wire act.


A wedding challenges a couple to ask what they want from and for their own life.

Love is our true destiny.  We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it in another. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. Whoever loves is more alive and more real than when they did not love.

Thomas Merton


If you don’t have goals and dreams and hopes, then why bother getting married? The great gift of marriage is that it gives you the safety to become who you desire to become – provided you and your partner have shared with each other and have already learned how to encourage those goals, dreams and hopes!


A wedding allows us to fulfill our collective, innate need to celebrate.

There are only two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle. 

The other is as though everything is a miracle.



Ritual (religious or not) grounds us and helps us make sense of life. In a world seemingly gone mad, a wedding has the power to reassure us that life is good – and worthy of our best. Every wedding reminds us of the lasting truth stated by Emily Dickinson:

That Love is all there is, is all we know of Love.


Given these 8 certainties, is it any wonder that we cry at weddings?!


If you’ve been asked by a friend or relative to officiate their ceremony

and you’re not sure even where to begin,

I invite you to check out my book –

How To Officiate A Non-Denominational Wedding Ceremony


Email me at:

[email protected]


My 1 Wish For Every Couple!


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  –  Out Of the Secret Planet


Having officiated over one thousand non-denominational wedding ceremonies here in Los Angeles and throughout the country, I’m now convinced that no one really knows what it is they’re vowing when they offer their vows!

How could they?


There are many versions of the traditional vows, and here’s the simplest:

I ___ take you___to be my wife/husband.  I promise to be true to you in god times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.  This is my solemn vow.


Lovely. Moving. Inspiring.

But what do those words mean? 

You don’t really know what they mean until you actually set about living your married life.


Last year I had the honor and delight to officiate the 20th Anniversary vow renewal for Jean and Curtis (names changed). I officiated their wedding twenty years ago. . .


They invited thirty close friends to come and celebrate their twenty-year adventure.


What made the celebration especially poignant is that Multiple Sclerosis has now confined Curtis to a wheelchair and he lives in a nursing facility that offers him the care Jean is no longer able to provide.


Twenty years ago they vowed to each other the words I wrote above. On that glorious day they weren’t able to imagine what “good times and bad” or what “sickness and health” would look like and feel like.


Their anniversary night was luminous – to be with them and see that they are living with grace and humor and generosity the life they had vowed to live.


For those of us who celebrated with them on their sunny Los Angeles wedding day, we had no way of knowing that twenty years later we’d be celebrating with them at a health care facility – we had hoped for Bora Bora! But we were there and would not have wanted to be anywhere else than with them.


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 unwitnessed because I will be your witness.’

From the movie, Shall We Dance?


Think on it – is there really a better definition of marriage than this?

After 20+ years of officiating non-denominational wedding ceremonies, I’m now prepared to say that THIS is THE definition of marriage. Jean and Curtis have confirmed this for me.


Their being a witness to each other’s life is a gift to each of us who are privileged to be their friend. They anchor us as they remind us what life is all about.


The goal of our life should not be to find joy in marriage, but to bring more love and truth into the world. We marry to assist each other in this task.

Leo Tolstoy


Simply put – our world is a better place because of Jean and Curtis.


What we wished for them on their wedding day, at its deepest level, has come to fruition.  They are each other’s partner – true and loving.


As I prepared for their vow renewal, I wondered what now, what more, could I wish for them? And then I came across these words:

To love someone deeply gives you strength.

Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.

Lao Tzu


And so in the name of all present I wished Jean and Curtis  ~

Continued strength and courage, day in and day out,

all the days of their life together.


It is also my wish for you and your partner. . .


If you’ve been asked by a friend or relative to officiate their ceremony

and you’re not sure even where to begin,

I invite you to check out my book –

How To Officiate A Non-Denominational Wedding Ceremony


Email me at:

[email protected]

4 Tips for Staying Happy On Your Wedding Day!


However richly inspired by love, marriage is a high wire act

that is usually attempted by two nervous wrecks who just go for it,

reeling with bliss and blind with the hots.

The rest is work, faith and destiny.




As flippant as that quote may be, I think it offers keen insight into the wedding experience.


I’ve officiated non-denominational wedding ceremonies for a wide array of couples here in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California and what never ceases to astonish me is how many of these folks were nervous wrecks on their wedding day!


“Wreck” in the sense that before the ceremony they were so distracted with nerves, they couldn’t socialize and truly were “beside” themselves.


A wedding is a surrealistic experience, no matter the size of the guest list or the setting.  There simply isn’t anything like it. While I readily acknowledge that truth, I’m still puzzled by the nervous states of so many of my brides and grooms.


I “get” the butterflies in the stomach nervousness but lately I’ve witnessed more extreme nervousness and in each case it tossed a pawl over the celebration.


Katy (all names changed) was so anxious before her ceremony at a lush Orange County resort that she asked that a glass of water be placed behind one of the pillars near where she’d be standing – in case she felt faint. When it came time to walk down the aisle, she couldn’t move. She stood frozen for what seemed like an eternity but was probably closer to five minutes – okay, in ceremony time that is an eternity!


The musicians played her entrance piece four times before she started to walk. I have no idea why she was so nervous, especially since she shared with me that she’d been planning her wedding since she was nine years old!


Annie had a DIY wedding and limited guests  to intimate friends and family. She was rapturous when she described how Edward proposed to her. When I arrived, though, for the ceremony in a downtown Los Angeles loft, she was distracted and barely smiled.


When I checked on her five minutes before the start, I walked in on her snapping at her best friend who also was her hair stylist. During the ceremony, she looked dazed.


Afterwards, she was snappish with Edward because the sun was setting and they had less time than anticipated for photos. Why worry about photos when you will never forget in your heart the moment the two of you just shared?


But there are other stories. . .

I recently officiated a wedding where Finn, the groom, told me right before ceremony start how happy he was. In fact, he couldn’t believe just how happy he was.

He looked at me with sparkling eyes and said, “All the people I love in this world are here with me right now!”  He thanked me for my help, slapped me on the back and said, “Get me married!”


The week before her wedding Cathy told me that she was determined to enjoy every minute of her wedding day. She reasoned, “If something happens then it’s beyond my control and I’ll just have to let it go. Besides, I have you and Annette (event planner) to take care of it!”


Another bride, Lucy, told me that she had recently attended a ceremony where anything that could go wrong did go wrong. I cringed when I heard that but she reassured me that the couple didn’t mind because it was all so perfectly imperfect that it made for a great and funny story.


Why is there such a difference between these brides and grooms?


Well, I’m not sure why!  But I can tell you that as an officiant it is unsettling and sad to witness people feeling miserable on what should be a beyond-the-beyond joyful day.


Having just wrote that I don’t know why there’s a difference, I’ll now say that I think the difference actually goes back to what I’ve said so many times before. . .


If you’re focusing on having the “perfect” day, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. 

Perfection, as you understand it in your head, simply doesn’t exist. 

However, if you’re focused on creating a “magical” day, then that “magic” will be perfect.


Sure, things can go wrong – and I’ve seen things go wrong – but I’ve never seen anything go so wrong that it ruined the joy of the day UNLESS the couple chose to have what went wrong ruin the joy of their day.


So, what can you do to make sure that your nerves do not ruin the fun and sweetness of your wedding day?  Consider these tips:


  • List what needs to happen for your joy to be diminished. You and your partner could make separate lists and then compare. Explore why what you’ve written could diminish your joy. If your worst fear comes true, strategize what you and your partner can do to protect each other and your celebration.


  • Embrace the phrase, “We’ll roll with it because it’s not a joy killer.” You can handle whatever happens. Really!


  • Is prayer, meditation or yoga something that helps to center and ground you? If so, then put it that practice on your daily schedule in the weeks leading up to your wedding – and remain faithful to that schedule!


  • What do you and your partner want people to remember about your wedding? What can you do to ensure that’s what they will remember? Don’t lose sight of your answers to these two key questions.


Remember –

your wedding day is the most important PUBLIC day of your life, but it really isn’t THE most important.

The day your child is born will be more important. The day you comfort your partner after they’ve received shattering health news, that will be a more important day.


Your wedding day gives thanks for the past, celebrates the present and blesses the future.

Therefore misery on your wedding day is a choice.  Why choose misery over joy?


And for more tips on keeping it all in perspective as you plan your wedding,

check out my book –

How to Plan Your Wedding AND Stay Sane!

What Are You Really Promising in Your Wedding Vows?



We come to love not by finding a perfect person,

but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.

Sam Keen


Earlier this week I was reading a book at my favorite non-Starbucks coffee house.  Three women eventually took the table next to mine.  I’ll admit it – I’m nosy – hey, I grew up in NYC where everyone loves to listen in on other people’s conversations!


It soon became clear that one of the women is getting married later in the summer and this was an outing for the three of them to catch-up on all-things wedding.  At one point, the bride-to-be in a loud, exasperated tone of voice (which made think she must have grown up in NYC) lamented: “I’m marrying an O.C.D. and he’s driving me nuts! I swear that’s all gonna change when we get married – I’m not gonna put up with that sh*t!”


I was sorely tempted to lean over and remind her that NOTHING is going to change after she got married!  If her fiancé is O.C.D. now, then he’ll be O.C.D. the day after their wedding. Declaring to a coffee house full of people that you’re not going to put up with his sh*t really isn’t going to change the poor guy.


When couples meet with me to discuss officiating their wedding ceremony, I am unsettled by how many of them think that marriage has some magical properties to it that will make all the annoying imperfections of a partner disappear.


NOTHING simply disappears after you say “I Do.”

When you write your wedding vows, you are not writing some secret, magical formula!


I invite you to think about Sam Keen’s observation ~

Are you able to love your imperfect partner perfectly? 

And what does that mean?


I don’t think it simply means be willing to “put up” with annoying habits.

It means seeing beyond the imperfections.


And when you do look beyond the imperfections, what do you see?

That’s what your wedding ceremony celebrates.



A good relationship is based on unconditional love. It’s not some maudlin feeling – it’s a decision. The mature relationship image I like best is two people making music together. Each plays his/her own instrument and uses his/her own unique skills, but they play the same song. Each is whole and complete. Each is independent and committed.

         John Bradshaw


The above quote is one of my favorite descriptions for marriage. I especially like the last sentence: each is independent and committed.


In my pre-marital communication coaching sessions, I remind couples that you cannot healthily enter into a marriage if you do not have a sense of your own self; if you are not committed to your own growth. 


And I get nervous when someone tells me that their partner is their life. I think a partner can give life to another, but to ask that person to be the other’s life is unfair and unreasonable.


I’m also drawn to the first sentence: a good relationship is based on unconditional love. In marriage and especially in the wedding ceremony that phrase “unconditional love” is tossed about.


BUT, what does it mean for you to love your partner unconditionally? 

What do you think is expected of you when you love unconditionally? 


Answer those two questions and you are in a sure place to both offer and receive each other’s vows.




In a Vanity Fair article, Justin Timberlake (who, by the way, was a groomsman at a wedding I officiated here in Los Angeles!) reflected on marriage and made this oh-so-spot-on observation –


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.”


So, as you prepare to write your wedding vows, do you understand what those vows mean – to you?

To your partner?


I am a Los Angeles-based non-denominational wedding officiant. During the last twenty years, I’ve officiated over one thousand non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural weddings.

For more insights and tips on the writing of your wedding vows

check out my book –

How to Write Your Vows: Giving Voice to What Is Deep Within

Simple Tips for Writing + Saying Your Vows

ryan ray photo


When I first meet with a couple to discuss their wedding ceremony, we spend significant time talking about the VOWS.

There are four main options you have for saying your vows:

  1. Answer “I Do” to the officiant’s question, “Do you take. . .”
  2. Repeat after me a version of the traditional vows
  3. Write your own personal vows
  4. Do a combination of personal sentiments + traditional vows


Here are some simple tips to keep in mind as you decide

how to offer your vows to each other


If you’re going to use traditional vows

There is a host of variations on the wording of the vows, depending on religion and denomination. You can choose one of the versions or take snippets from a couple of versions and create your own new “traditional” vows.


You should decide if you will both say the same version of the traditional vows or if you’ll each say a different version.


If you’re going to repeat your vows after an officiant, you’ll want to keep the vows to no more than five sentences. After five sentences, it begins to sound long-winded and monotonous.


If you’re going to write personal vows or sentiments

Make sure you give yourself the luxury of time to reflect on your partner, your affection and commitment.

Go someplace where you can focus without distraction.  Put your cell on airplane mode!

For inspiration, couples often turn to music, movies, poetry, and literature – any source that speaks of love and commitment.


At some point you’ll have to start writing. Write – don’t edit!

Just pour your sentiments onto the paper. When you’re done, put it aside – for an hour, a day, a week, so you can clear your head and get distance. Then, go back to what you’ve written and begin to edit and give shape to your words.



There’s no “right” way or “wrong” way. No one is going to judge you. And if someone does, then why did you invite them to your wedding?!


Let the tone of your vows reflect the tone of your own relationship.


Your vows or personal sentiments MUST be written out!

I’ve had grooms and brides tell me before the ceremony that they couldn’t put words to paper, but that they know what they want to say. Inevitably, when it came time to say their vows, each and every one froze like the proverbial deer in a headlight.


If you’re writing your own vows, at some point you’ll want to have the phrase, “and so I take you to be my wife / husband” as this is the phrase that makes a vow a “vow.”


Length of Personal Vows

The longest personal vows I ever heard were offered by a bride and groom each of whom was an attorney. I never critique vows, but I remember wondering when they’d get to the end of their respective vows because they seemed to just go on and on!

I ran into the bride six months later and sadly, she revealed that she was filing for divorce.

So, my rule of thumb is: the shorter the vows, the longer the marriage!

Jaded humor aside – I can’t tell you a specific length since these are your vows.


Write Your Vows On ??

You can write your vows in a good-looking journal book, on nice stationary (perhaps the same as your invites), or on a scrap of crumpled paper you found the night before! A couple that works in Silicon Valley had their vows on an i-Pad.


Where to Keep Your Vows In The Ceremony

If the vows are on loose paper, then the groom usually keeps his in his jacket pocket. The bride can give her vows to the officiant.


People Want to Hear Your Vows

The emotional core of the ceremony is the Exchange of Vows.

Guests WANT to hear your vows, so make sure you have a microphone (that works).  I always prefer a hand-held mic because I can point it in the direction of the groom and bride.

I don’t like lapel mics because even if both the groom and I have a lapel mic, it’s still hard for the bride to be heard as she’s got to lean in close to the groom for the mic to pick-up her voice.


What to Do with Your Vows After the Wedding

Because your vows are priceless, consider where you’ll preserve them when you return to “normal” life.

If you’ve written personal vows or sentiments you might keep them in a special box or container that’s readily displayed.

You might frame a copy of the traditional vows.

Be creative and don’t let the powerful, life-giving words of your vows simply disappear into thin air!


No matter what vows you offer to your partner

they are but an echo of what’s in your heart. 

Have fun and don’t let your nerves silence you!


I am a Los Angeles-based non-denominational wedding officiant. During the last twenty years, I’ve officiated over one thousand non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural weddings.

This post is an excerpt from my book

How to Write Your Vows: Giving Voice to What Is Deep Within