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!

2

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.

Remember:

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!

Writing Vows In the Middle Of A Pandemic!

The love we were promised in fairytales was never something for us to find. It has always been something for us to create.

Tyler Kent White

Many of my couples choose to write their own personal vows – and even those who decide to use traditional vows usually entertain the idea of personal vows.

A couple of weeks prior to their wedding, couples oftentimes will shoot me a frantic email wondering if I’d be willing to take a look at their vows since they aren’t sure if they’re “good enough.”

And then, there are those grooms and brides who simply wait to the last minute – literally the last minute – to compose their vows, hoping that the god of their childhood will grant them unexpected inspiration!

These days no one is sending me their vows as the vast majority of weddings have been put on hold, postponed by several months or longer.

While you and your partner can’t enjoy a food tasting, feel table linens or smell flowers, what you can do is reflect on your vows.

Sheltering-in-place with your partner or even in separate locations is going to bring those vows to life in ways you may not have been able to imagine before.

The traditional vows are traditional because they are simple, powerful and direct in their wording:

I promise to be true to you

In good times and in bad

In sickness and in health

For better, for worse

For richer, for poorer

WOW!

I always am thrilled to stand before two people and witness them gift each other with some variation of these words.

The mystery of it all.

The generosity.

The courage.

I have not officiated a wedding since before we were advised to shelter-in-place. In the days since, I’ve reflected on what weddings will be like when we return – not to an “old normal” but to a new normal.

How will having lived through a pandemic influence the kind of vows couples offer each other? The sentiments as well as the depth of those sentiments.

Here’s the thing –

Have you ever lived with your partner in circumstances like these?!

  • What are you learning about yourself?
  • What are you learning about your partner?
  • What has surprised you?
  • What has reassured you?

The wise poet Mary Oliver wrote,

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Are you paying attention to your partner in ways you’ve not done so before?

Have you been astonished – for good or for not so good?!

When you do have your wedding, and you will, that day will celebrate all your days together AND, in a special way, will celebrate the gift of insight you received during these mad-crazy upside-down days.

I maintain that your postponed wedding will be a heightened experience BECAUSE the two of you lived (and grew) through a pandemic together.

LIVED through it – not simply scrounged through it.

We don’t know what life will be like in the future. We certainly didn’t know prior to the pandemic – BUT back then there were what we called guard rails. Those have been chipped away at.

So, here is the truest of truths – a truth we can barely imagine –

When you and your partner finally gift each other with your vows, you will be pledging to love, to be true to each other, in a world that you will, in one way or another, help recreate.

What are you vowing?

Well, the answer to that question can be seen and felt and heard in how you are living TODAY as you shelter-in-place.

Shelter-in-place.

How are you giving shelter to your partner?

Can you recognize what they need?

Can you tell them what you need?

I’m not sure you can get married post-pandemic without acknowledging what you together experienced in the days of sheltering-in-place.

 These days you are now living through ARE the good times and the bad, the better and the worse.

The “you” of the pandemic is the person you vow to your partner.

Ours has always been and continues to be –

A world of uncertainty.

A world of illness.

A world of death.

A world of invention.

A world of generosity.

A world of courage.

A world of determination.

A world of hope.

How do you help your partner live in this world?

How does your partner help you live in this world?

Who do you pledge to be in this world?

What do you pledge to do in this world?

THAT is the vow you are being asked to gift to your partner.

THAT is the vow family and friends will have waited to bear witness to.

Your words – your vows – will be balm to our hurting hearts.

I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.

Herman Hesse

What Makes a Marriage Work

A few years ago, I reached out to various married friends and asked if they’d reflect on their marriage as a gift to you, my readers.

I’ve known one of those couples, Anne and her husband, Rob, since they were first dating as undergrads at Loyola-Marymount U. At the time Anne’s answers were offered,  they had been married almost 30 years.

A little over a week ago Anne passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. She was a hero of mine. She and Rob brought that word “marriage” to joyous life. 

Since most of you reading this blog are in the throes of planning for your wedding – or now frantically postponing and re-planning your wedding – I thought I’d re-share Anne’s reflections to remind you what can happen after you’ve walked down the aisle – if you live a generous life!

1.  What do you know today about marriage that there was no way you could have known before you got married?

How FUN it is! It is just nice to know that there is someone out there who not only has your back but is actually fun to be with! We laugh a lot.

2.  What three words do you think of when you think of your wedding day?

FUN – FAMILY – LOVE

3.  Why haven’t you gotten divorced?

Really? Why would we ever get divorced? We love each other. Laugh hysterically with each other. Have fun together. Understand each other. We always joke that neither one of us would ever be able to have an affair because we would have to come home and tell each other all about it. Plus, who has the energy?

4.  What three things are you grateful for in your spouse?

So many more than 3 things but if it had to be 3:

  • His complete generosity of spirit. He ALWAYS puts me first (to the point where I have to tell him not to sometimes).
  • He is patient with me.
  • He shows me and tells me that his love for me is unending and grows deeper every day.

5.  One sentence advice you’d give to a couple planning to get married?

Be each other’s biggest fans. Never put your spouse down to someone else. Talk about problems in private. And forgive each other when things do go that way. The world is hard enough as it is. Don’t make it harder for each other.

6.  What has most surprised you about being married?

How fast it has gone!

7.  How has your partner helped you become who you are today?

This is a really hard one because he has shaped who I am more than anyone in my life. He has given me confidence in myself and given me my strongest identity as a wife and a mother.  Those two jobs are by far the most meaningful experiences of my life. He has supported me in everything I have ever wanted to do and encouraged me to do things I was too afraid to do.

8.  Are you happy you had the celebration you had – or do you wish you had eloped?

Very happy. Except that we didn’t have the celebrant we really wanted. When I see some really great ideas of weddings today I think that it’s cute but we really enjoyed having all of our friends and family together to help us celebrate. That was most important to us.

9.  What did you experience at your wedding that you hope other couples experience at theirs?

LOVE. All kinds of love. Our family and friends and the whole day was filled with love.

10.  In no more than 140 characters sum up your thoughts on marriage!

We have always told our children, “The most important decision you EVER make is who you marry.” They roll their eyes at us because they have heard it so many times. But I think it is the truest thing I know. Rob makes everything in my life better. Life has thrown some doozies at us. We have a special needs child who is now an adult. We have had that call from the police for our most mischievous child. We have dealt with illness and death. But there was never a single moment when I felt like we were not a team. Coming home to Rob is the best part of my day and I thank God every day that He brought him into my life.  (This is more than 140 characters!)

Best Quote of The Year – so far!

Last week. . .

The Procession had started.  I was in position. 

The groom, Eric, took his place next to me. 

He looked out and then leaned in and in an awed voice whispered,

“This really is surreal!”

Duh – It is! 

And what surprised me is that throughout planning, he had a relaxed, almost blasé approach to it all.

You don’t know it just yet – BUT

YOUR wedding ceremony is an out-of-body experience and there’s no way to predict how you’ll feel. . .

Just enjoy it all!

Last month, I officiated a wedding – we were five minutes from “show time” and the event planner had sequestered me with the groom and his groomsmen.

At one point, Pete, the groom, turned to me and with some exasperation said,

“This is stupid! Why am I a mess?”

I laughed. 

The groomsmen laughed. 

Pete laughed.

It’s probably one of the best questions I’ll hear all year!

So, why was Pete a mess? 

While I can’t say for certain, I think it has to do with what the writer Madeleine L’Engle claimed:

But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made.

Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens,

and how much risk they are willing to take. 

Because it is the nature of love to create,

a marriage itself is something which has to be created,

so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take.

No wonder Pete was a mess!

No wonder we all were so thrilled to bear witness as they reconfirmed their commitment to taking this BIG risk and to creating a life-giving life!

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

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!

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

        https://www.amazon.com/How-Write-Your-Vows-Giving/dp/1521337942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496336971&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+write+your+vows

The Best Thing You Can Do While Planning Your Wedding!

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 luck.

I like this quote, though I don’t think “luck” has anything to do with it.

Marriage is a conscious commitment. As such, a marriage will “succeed” or “fail” based on your generosity of time, energy and creativity. A marriage will “work” to the degree you are gracious in sharing your body, your thoughts and your feelings.

A wedding celebrates your commitment to being and becoming that generous, gracious partner.

Last week, I met with a couple to put the final touches on their ceremony. I asked how things were going and the groom said: “well, we’re learning to say ‘I’m sorry’ a lot faster than we used to!”

We all laughed.  But, he did speak to an important issue – communication.

Relationship is communication.  The heart of all relationships is communication.

Planning a wedding puts a strain on a couple. Perhaps you’ve noticed?! 

The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of the communication in your life.

 To enhance the quality of your relationship, even as you deal with the craziness of planning your wedding, you need to listen to each other – really listen!

A couple came to my home for an initial consultation. We met in my living room. The bride and I were in animated conversation, while the groom tried his best to look interested. Then, out of nowhere, he interrupts and asks me: “Great TV – do you mind if I ask how much?” 

The bride became annoyed that he hadn’t been paying attention to what she was saying to me – and the groom became annoyed that she was annoyed over “nothing.”

Ya gotta love it!

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

If so, then perhaps the greatest thing you can do for each other while planning your wedding is to listen to each other.

Yet, this is where it gets tricky – for brides and grooms approach a wedding from different perspectives. 

Sometimes, a bride and a groom will be paying attention to different details in the wedding planning.  This means, they may not be listening to what the other is saying, since we only pay attention to what we find interesting.

The truth is that how you listen to each other now, as you plan your wedding, is a sure indication of how you will listen to each other the week after your wedding.

Do you listen to each other? 

Or, better, do you feel that your partner listens to you?  Really listens?

The Chinese characters for “listen” are:

Ear

Eye

Heart

Undivided attention

Think about it. Isn’t it true that when you really listen to someone, you are not just “hearing” them? 

You are focused on them – on their face – on their body movement – on the gaps between what they don’t say.

Instagram. Facebook. Pinterest. Texting. We do business and live our lives in a swirl of information; but, how often are we actually listening?

During the planning of your wedding, there is no greater thing you can do for each other than to listen. 

There is no greater thing you can do than to make time to really listen.

Try this:

  1. Make a date with each other
  2. Go some place you both enjoy
  3. Turn off the cell phones
  4. Talk
  5. Relax
  6. Laugh
  7. Listen to the concerns of your partner – those spoken and unspoken
  8. Remind yourselves why you are doing this craziness
  9. Plan.  Plot.  Prepare. 
  10. Laugh

I once came across a card that said: 

A friend is someone who hears the song in your heart and sings it to you when memory fails.

I know – it’s corny! 

But, your “memory” is going to fail you as you plan your wedding.

It’s reassuring if you know that your partner has been listening and will remind you of what your big day is all about – even if they sing off key!

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!

What Is Your Wedding Celebrating?

What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.

It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. 

Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

Pedro Arrupe, s.j.

Your wedding celebrates the life the two of you have created AND it celebrates the life you are committed to creating. 

Your wedding celebrates your love for each other AND for all the loves you have in your life, together and separately.

I believe that a marriage is one, long, grand conversation. 

While it’s so basic a question that I hesitate to even ask, ask you I will. . .

  • Do you know what seizes your partner’s imagination? 
  • Do you know what amazes your partner with joy and gratitude? 
  • What breaks their heart?

While it’s so basic a question that I hesitate to even ask, ask you I will. . .

  • As a couple, what seizes your imaginations together? 
  • Fills you with joy and gratitude? 
  • Could break your hearts?

Your answers to these questions tell the story of your life and commitment.

Let your answers guide you in –

crafting your ceremony

choosing the words for your vows

and

creating your celebration

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!

A Memory of Weddings Past!

Throwback Tuesday!

This is a posting from 2013 – I can’t believe that I wrote (lived) this seven years ago! It’s one of my all-time fav posts because it’s an homage to some of my all-time fav couples! And once again, I’m reminded of what a lucky guy I am. . .

Enjoy!

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.

Unknown

In 2012 I had the honor to officiate 72 “high wire acts.”

They ranged from a live-streamed wedding on Facebook to an elopement at Lifeguard Station #8 in Santa Monica. Budgets for these seven-dozen weddings ranged from $500 to $1 million!

The couples were religiously and cross-culturally diverse; straight, gay and lesbian; and ranged in age from twenty-three to sixty-seven. Numbered among these couples were an ex-stripper, an ex-drag queen and a Republican ex-gubernatorial candidate! They came not only from California but also from England, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Denmark, China, Japan, Taiwan and Canada.

As I recall my weddings of 2019 and what I learned from the couples, I’m reminded of Albert Einstein’s claim that

There are only two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is. 

While “miracle” is a loaded word, at the very least a wedding is a grand embracing of life in all its glory and uncertainty and messiness. 

Here are seven couples that chose to celebrate their “miracles” with grateful joy.  (names changed).

Roger and Karen. Several months before their wedding he was diagnosed with an unusual form of cancer and they had to put their wedding on hold. On what should have been their wedding day, he was in chemo. Throughout, they together stayed calm, focused, determined and hopeful. They simply did what they had to do. Now, at the start of this New Year, cancer free, they have their sights set on a May wedding. 

Sure, I hear about this kind of story all the time BUT to witness this kind of love – I am in awe.

Denise and Anthony. Her family is ethnically Armenian and Greek-Orthodox by religion, while his family is Persian Muslim. There were so many opportunities and reasons for dissension and fighting within and between the families. And, yet, there wasn’t. Both families gave their blessings. Three hundred people came together to eat, drink, dance, sing, tell stories and celebrate life, love and family on into the wee hours of the morning.

By celebrating what made them unique these families found what they shared in common.  That the cliché “love conquers all” still holds meaning is beyond heartening.

Brad and Cathy. They planned a destination wedding and then Cathy’s mom was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Doctors advised Cathy that if she wanted her mom at the wedding, she should not wait. And so they cancelled their plans, lost their deposits and reimagined a smaller, less exotic celebration. When I first met with them, Brad explained, “yes, we lost our budget, but the upside is we get to be married sooner!” 

Joy in the midst of devastating chaos is breath taking.

Natalie and Alexander. Widowed before she turned thirty, Natalie had loved her husband and out of respect for him set about re-inventing her life. She went back to school and took off to New Zealand for a semester. Alexander was there from Germany working at a yearlong project. Neither was looking for love, but love found them. Now living in the mid-West they decided to have a small December beach wedding with ten family and friends. They got married by a lifeguard station while a commercial was being filmed on the other side (so LA!).

Natalie mourned her first husband, chose life, and found joy halfway around the world. Could have been a sappy Lifetime movie but instead hers is a story that challenges the pessimistic corners of my heart.

Donna and Michael. They were a sweet, funny couple that got married in her mom’s backyard. At our final meeting Michael told me he couldn’t believe how lucky he was to be marrying someone as kind as Donna. I told him that Donna was just as lucky. He quickly replied, “you don’t understand – I had a knack for dating girls who would end up breaking my heart. It was almost like I enjoyed punishing myself. My last girlfriend was the worst. I had to hit rock bottom before I could find Donna.”

In matters of the heart, we can be so unkind to ourselves. I marvel that he had the capacity to hear a buried voice that let him remember what his heart longed for.

Jen and Kim. Ten years ago I officiated their commitment ceremony during a magical weekend celebration in Napa. Fifty of us had gathered to bless them as they offered their vows to create a life-giving life. We all hoped that “someday” their union would be recognized for what it was – a marriage.  I suspect, though, few of us thought it would ever happen. But so it did.  Last Fall they renewed their vows with their three-year-old twin daughters as flower girls.

Kim’s mom signed the marriage license as the official witness. Her eyes glistened with joy – as did everyone’s.

Tanya and Jordan. The day before our initial meeting, Tanya learned she was pregnant.  She came from a Colombian family of devout Catholics. Her father was deceased and so her mom would walk her down the aisle. When her mother learned that I was wearing a suit and not religious robes, she was concerned. What will the family think? Ah, mothers!  What makes her question poignant, though, is that after her husband died, Tanya’s mom fell in love with a woman – who has been her partner for ten years!    

While I puzzled at her fixation with my lack of robes, I also laughed with Tanya and Robert over how weddings wackily turn normal people’s brains upside-down!

Each of my 72 couples reminded me, week after week, that life is good and worthy of our best.

If the ultimate goal in life is to become ever more fully human, to love and be loved, then all my couples challenged me to be true to that quest.

UPDATE: For all getting married in 2020 and beyond may you, like these couples, find unbridled joy in your celebration!

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.