My Top 10 “What The?!” Wedding Moments


When I’m in a social setting and I tell people that I officiate weddings, inevitably, they will ask, “So, what was the worst thing that happened at a wedding?” And they ALWAYS ask the question with a glint in their eyes!


Recently, just for the heck of it, I jotted down a list of the more memorable things that have gone wrong at my weddings over the years. I’ve been fortunate, or rather, my couples have been fortunate that no one of these “disasters” was worthy of going viral.  However, each and all gave a signature, “wack-a-do” moment to the ceremony. And with each memory there’s a lesson learned.


Here are my Top 10 “What The?!” Wedding Moments


  1. The longest reading I ever heard in a ceremony was three pages, single-spaced. The bride’s sister wrote a reflection entitled, “What Is A Marriage.” The ceremony took place on a summer’s day at a venue that had no trees and no shade. None. It was near 100-degrees. The bride’s make-up ran; the groom swayed; and the sister kept on reading. Oh, and I later learned that the sister had recently gone through a nasty divorce. This was her idea of group therapy!


  1. The bride asked her married sister to be matron-of-honor and her single sister to be maid-of-honor. I didn’t think it mattered who signed the license as a witness and so I asked the first sister I found – the matron-of-honor. On the drive home I got a call from the bride’s mother demanding to know why I had asked her married daughter to sign when “everyone” knew the single sister was supposed to sign. The mother screamed at me, accusing me of having ruined the day for her daughter – no, not the daughter who was the bride – the daughter who was the matron-of-honor! She told me she was sobbing at the reception.


  1. Two hours before the start of the ceremony, the maid-of-honor got into a verbal fighting match with the bride and accused her of being an alcoholic and “white trash.” She then drove off to parts unknown – with one of the groomsmen!


  1. While it’s traditional for the mothers to sit on the aisle seats of the front rows, this bride’s step-mom decided she wanted to take that seat and so plopped herself down before the Processional. She refused to move. The bride’s mother refused to sit anywhere other than the first seat of the first row. The ceremony was delayed a solid half-hour. I eventually coaxed the step-mom into moving. I won’t print what I said to her, but keep in mind that my father had been a cop and my grandmother a prison guard!


  1. At the end of the ceremony, after I pronounced the couple married and they kissed, they and their wedding party were supposed to release butterflies. They opened the boxes and – most of the butterflies were dead and the rest wouldn’t fly away. I thought it was a disaster, but the guests laughed and finally the bride’s butterfly flew off. She smugly smiled, kissed her groom again and whispered, “Follow me” and off they went up the aisle.


  1. The rings were tied on a white silk pillow that was held by the bride’s four-year-old nephew. At the appropriate time, I called the boy up and he handed the pillow to the Best Man. I then pulled on the string holding one ring and it easily slipped off. I then pulled on the string holding the other ring and – it pulled into a tight knot. I couldn’t undo the knot. The Best Man couldn’t undo the knot. The groom couldn’t undo the knot. The bride couldn’t undo the knot. Everyone smiled, not sure if this was a gag. Finally, the photographer whipped out his penknife and cut the ribbon, freeing the ring!


  1. The mother of the groom did not like her future daughter-in-law. To her credit, she had told both her son and his fiancée that she didn’t like her! To the couple’s credit, they invited her AND the groom told his mother that he would not tolerate her pulling any stunts. His mother assured him that she wouldn’t. However, ten minutes before ceremony’s start, she began to cry and the crying turned into wailing. She sobbed so hard (because he was marrying “that one”) that the ceremony was delayed 25-minutes until she could compose herself.


  1. Then there was the Armenian dad who was devastated that his daughter was marrying a man who was not Armenian. Two weeks before the wedding, he called and pleaded with me not to officiate the wedding. He said, “It will kill me if my daughter marries this man!” It was when he told me that he’d rather see her dead than married to her fiancé that I grew alarmed. The couple hired security and it’s the only wedding I officiated where I kept wondering if I was going to show up on the local Ten O’clock News! The bride’s father (and mother) boycotted the wedding and I still don’t know if I “killed” the man!


  1. My second all-time favorite mother story is the mother whose son did not invite her to the wedding. He had a strained relationship with his mother and feared she’d do something to ruin his day. She showed up at the church just as I was asking the question, “Who presents this woman. . .?” Suddenly, standing in the church’s doorway, in the shadows, yet backlit by the sun, stood the groom’s mother. She said nothing. She did nothing. She simply stood there throughout the ceremony. Wonderfully dramatic – and creepy!


  1. And now for my #1 favorite mother story. . .the bride and groom had been together five years and were great partners. Towards the end of their ceremony the bride’s mother stood up and walked towards me. Puzzled,  I walked over to her and in a voice only I could hear, she said these immortal words: “Do not pronounce them husband and wife, I have reservations.” Beyond stunned,  I smiled and said to her: “The only reservation you better have is for dinner.” I raced back to the couple and quickly pronounced them husband & wife. After the ceremony, I found the bride and as I gave her a big hug, she sheepishly said: “I guess I forgot to tell you about my mother.” Duh!


What did I learn from all this?

Weddings can be wacky and unpredictable – and I can never be too prepared.  I have to be the rock for a couple and for their families and guests.

While each of the above-mentioned ten couples experienced some disappointment, annoyance, concern and puzzlement, not one of them allowed any mishap or moment of melodrama to rain on the joy of their day BECAUSE each couple decided their joy was stronger than anger.


Nothing can ruin your day unless you choose to make it ruin your day.


In the face of potential disaster, you have only three options:





You might end up doing all three – just make sure you end with the laughter!


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 Truths About Your Wedding You Don’t Want To Forget


At the birthday party of a friend, I met David and Paula names changed), a couple who had just celebrated their first wedding anniversary. David and his family are culturally Jewish while Paula is agnostic. Her father, though, is an atheist and her mother Roman Catholic. They told me that while planning their wedding they were quickly overwhelmed with the politics of it all.


After a run-in with his family over their decision not to have a Chuppah, they realized that the sanest thing they could do for each other was to work through each issue as it came along – prioritizing details from most to least important.


When I have my final meeting with a couple, usually a week or so before their wedding, I oftentimes find them to be both excited and exhausted. They’re excited because “the” day is near at hand. And they’re exhausted because of all the demands, challenges and stress they never imagined they would encounter during the planning of their big day.


In the hope of helping you reach the end of your planning a little less dazed and confused, here are ~


8 Truths About Your Wedding You Don’t Want To Forget


  1. You are a couple. Protect each other. Is your mother or some other family member or friend complaining about “that person” you’re marrying? The time to set boundaries is now – not after your wedding. Remember – we train people how to treat us. And “train” is not too strong a word.


  1. You are a couple. You are not victims. Take responsibility for your wants, needs, wishes, feelings and choices. All of these have consequences. With courage, embrace these responsibilities and consequences. This is the only way you can honor and protect each other.


  1. You are a couple. And your family members are consistent. No one is going to change. Be prepared for all those old familiar buttons being pushed.


  1. You are a couple. Again I say – establish boundaries. You are no longer a child. You are not a pair of children playing house. People owe you respect. Do what is needed to receive that respect.
    • say “no” when needed
    • understand you cannot please everyone
    • respect your right to feelings
    • recall that you cannot change anyone
    • refuse to be taken advantage of


  1. You are a couple. You are each other’s home. And from that place of home, you may have to have conversations with family or friends that are “sticky.” Keep the following in mind:
    • do not keep things bottled up inside
    • speak from a place of “I”—do not begin with “you this” and “you that”
    • do not accuse, do not yell, do not be sarcastic
    • make it safe for you and the other – ask if you can talk with them about the issue that is troubling you
    • speak assertively – not aggressively
    • resist becoming defensive – take responsibility for your share of the situation without assuming a posture of guilt
    • make sure you are speaking about the “right” issue – is it a particular experience or is it a pattern of behavior you want to speak to?
    • focus on what it is you want from the conversation and the person – is this person capable of giving you want you want?


  1. You are a couple. Whatever challenges one of you may encounter see them as being shared by the two of you.


  1. You are a couple. Remind each other of your love.


  1. You are a couple. Laugh your heads off. 


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!





HEY! Do Not Be Nervous On Your Wedding Day!


A couple of weeks ago, I officiated a non-denominational wedding that had 200 guests. When I arrived on site, the event planner told me that everyone was worried about the bride – “she’s really nervous.” The groom asked me what I would do if his bride couldn’t finish saying her vows. The maid of honor took me aside and asked if I’d ever had a bride faint in the middle of the ceremony. And the bride?  Well, she told me she was really nervous – and then threw back a shot of tequila!


Last week I officiated a wedding for an out-of-town gay couple who had decided to combine their wedding and honeymoon. They invited just ten relatives and friends.  The ceremony was held in their hotel suite that had a breath-taking view of LA. When I arrived, Frank (names changed) clasped my hand and said, “I’m so nervous, I don’t know if I can say my vows.” I reminded him that there would only be ten people, but he said, “That’s a lot!”


It doesn’t matter if you’ve invited ten people or twenty times ten people.

It doesn’t matter if you’re straight or gay.

A wedding is something of an out-of-body experience!


And while I do “get” why people are nervous, at the risk of sounding obnoxious, I gotta ask:

“Why? Why are you nervous? What are you telling yourself? What thoughts are scaring you?”


CS Lewis, author of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” also wrote a now forgotten sci-fi novel, “Out Of The Secret Planet.” The hero of that tale says this to his beloved:

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.


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

Your life together is a series of most important days. 

I think your wedding day is the great touchstone for all those other “the” most important days. 


Your wedding day is “the” day that can become the memory that becomes your compass BECAUSE this is the day you say with emphasis:

This is the person I am.

This is the person I want to be – a person who desires, gives, loves, forgives, hopes, hurts and who is generously human.


The poet Sam Keen observed that:

We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.


If this is true (and I think it is) why then worry about “perfection”?


Your vows don’t have to be perfect.

The day doesn’t have to be “perfect.”

You just have to be bravely generous.


Last month, I did a ceremony on a property that overlooked the Pacific. The view was breathtaking and so was the wind! It was an unusually windy day. Jackie, the bride, had a long veil that dramatically blew high up in the air – to the delight and distraction of guests. Finally, at one point, she grabbed the veil and tucked it under her armpit (strapless dress). Everyone laughed – and we could get on to the matter at hand – the offering of their vows.


I loved Jackie’s attitude –  ya gotta do what ya gotta do. . .

With laughter.

With joy.

With determination.

With focus.

With love.

That’s the vow you’re making to each other.  That’s how you make your vow to one another.


Why be nervous?! You’re marrying the person you love!!


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 Real Secret To a 25 Year Marriage!


The following excerpt, “25 YEARS,” is written by Marley Klaus.  The full text can be found on her wonderful blog The Heathen Learns

She and her husband— film, TV, and theater director Kevin Dowling— married in 1987 and have two sons. This was written on her 25th wedding anniversary. 

I love her timeless insight into what makes a marriage, a marriage!


There’s this idea about romantic love, about finding your “soul mate” as that man of mine surely is, that makes us think that our lives should be entwined, enmeshed, our happiness entrusted to another. I think that idea does more to undermine good relationships than almost any other.


The underbelly of that notion is: so, if I’m not happy – and who is all the time? – it is my partner’s responsibility to at least try to make me feel better, happier. I won’t speak for other people but, in our determination to put how we felt about each other into practice, we kinda got it wrong for a while.  In the misguided attempt to make the other happier, we contorted ourselves and our lives into painful and unrecognizable pretzel shapes – or felt guilty when we didn’t or couldn’t.


We thought we were responsible for each other instead of to each other.

The result?


We had about two years of hell that stripped our relationship right down to its foundation.

I remember standing on a street, looking across the top of a car at him and thinking: I am willing to lose this but I am not willing to not be myself anymore. I was lucky. He was braver and more determined than I was. He took the first steps to break our dynamic.


At the time, it felt like he was retreating to his corner to work on his own issues, but it gave me the room to do the same. I would never, ever, ever want to go through that again (have I said “never” and “ever” enough?) however, the new relationship that was built on what remained, that foundation, that look, is everything I ever wanted and more.


Boy, I love you, I admire you, I like you and I’m grateful for you and to you for our quarter century together. . . .


What we now know is that marriage isn’t about two becoming one, but about learning how to be yourself in the presence of another.


That, to me, to us, is the secret of a marriage worth having.


If you want more tips on how to communicate in smart, healthy ways with your partner – during wedding planning and beyond –

check out my book,

How To Plan Your Wedding AND Stay Sane!

OR –

Treat you and your partner to a communications coaching session with me.

Click HERE for details!





What a Trio of Weddings Taught Me About Weddings!

josh elliot studios


Although I love officiating non-denominational, cross-cultural and inter-faith wedding ceremonies, I pride myself on not being a “wedding factory.”  I’ll officiate only one wedding a day and most weekends I’m booked with just one wedding, typically on a Saturday. Last month, though, I had an unusual weekend where I was booked with three weddings – Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


Each was unique and so different from the other two. Yet, they all shared one thing in common. . .


Friday night I was down in Orange County for the wedding of Suzie and Jared (names changed),  Jared is an actor and keeps busy with TV work. He hasn’t won an Emmy, but his profile is high enough that his engagement was highlighted by People Mag.


Suzie and Jared asked me to ask their guests not to take photos during the ceremony and not post anything of the wedding to social media. I was more than happy to do so!


I’m biased – while I love my technology and have everything that begins with the letter “i” I don’t get why guests want to spend the ceremony taking snaps with their smart phone or tablet. It takes them so out of the moment and experience.


It was wonderful to look out and see 120 people focused on Suzie and Jared and not craning to get some amateurish shot.


During the ceremony I happened to notice a young guy in the third row. He had a rugby build and before the ceremony had been joking and flirting with several single women – clearly making the most of the moment! Now, though, I caught a glimpse and could see that there was a change in his face – he looked visibly moved as Jared and Suzie exchanged vows.


I was reminded – again – of the power of ritual to connect us to a deep truth.


Saturday night was in Malibu at a high-end resort with a view of “forever.” Everything about Karli’s and Chip’s wedding was more elaborate than Suzie’s and Jared’s. But there was nothing stuffy about any of it.


It was a windy day and Karli’s veil was billowing up into her face. Laughing, she turned to her maid of honor who was frantically trying to grab it and said, “Oh, just step on the darn thing!”  And the maid of honor did – no more whiplash from the veil!


And then on Sunday I flew up to Sacramento for a wedding. Dale’s and Kevin’s wedding was a simple, minimal DIY.


The ceremony began and Kevin was BEAMING – I mean BEAMING – as he watched Dale walk down the aisle with her mom. I suddenly realized that for the first time in my life, I may have been witnessing true “euphoria.” WOW!


Three unique couples. 

Three unique wedding ceremonies. 

Three unique celebration styles and budgets. 


What did they share in common?


Alice Walker has one of her characters in The Color Purple ask this question:

“Tell the truth, have you ever found God in a church? I never did. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too.”


While these were not church weddings, with a nod to Walker, I’d rephrase the question: 

“Did I ever find magic created by the budget of a wedding? I never did. Any magic I ever felt I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too – bring the magic with them.”


It’s the magic of your wedding that people will be talking about for years to come. . .


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!

Tips for Having A Festive Beach Wedding!



Every weekend in the summer you’ll find me officiating non-denominational wedding ceremonies in some of the most beautiful locations found in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. While most of those ceremonies take place at venues with spectacular views of the ocean, occasionally couples want to actually have their ceremony on the beach.


Beach weddings evoke romantic images – and they can be romantic – if you plan sensibly. The key word in that last sentence is sensibly!


Whether you believe in climate change or not the reality is – temperatures are rising! Family and friends love you – dearly – and I promise you that they will love you even more if you don’t plop them in the middle of a beach without some thought and care!


Having officiated upwards of a hundred sweaty, salty SoCal beach weddings,

here are my tips for having a festive wedding ceremony on beach sand!


Provide shade. During the summer, the sun can be brutal, especially if you’re wearing something other than a bathing suit! A festive way to offer guests some shade is by providing colorful paper umbrellas – your guests even could lead you to the ceremony spot in a Mardi Gras procession of color. And if not umbrellas then paper fans.


Provide cold water. Buckets of cold water. Trust me on this!

You will have “lookie-loos.” If you’re getting married on a pubic beach, you should expect some folks to watch – or gawk! Know that some of these folks will pop up in your video/photos. And some of those folks probably should be arrested for wearing Speedos!


Check out your intended ceremony beach spot a week or so before your wedding. When do crowds thin out? Is there a stretch that is less populated? While it will be hard to find a private spot, you at least can reduce the number of unwanted guests.


Be creative – you’re not having a traditional ceremony. Be creative in every aspect of the ceremony – from what you wear to how you exchange vows and rings. Here are some creative and engaging ceremony touches. . .


Rather than setting up rows of chairs, have your guests circle around you in a tight knit circle of love.


I’ve officiated at beach weddings where couples actually dragged string trios onto the sand – only to have the music blown out to sea. Why not have a horn, trumpet or steel drum shout forth the joy of your day?


I’ve seen brides clomp through the sand in puffy dresses, complete with veil and train. So not romantic! You’re not in a church – why imitate a church setting?


I feel for older guests and relatives who trudge through the sand in shoes – wanting to remain “proper.” Consider alternatives. Have folks switch into flip-flops before heading off to the ceremony spot. Perhaps you can provide a station where people can remove socks and shoes and then, after the ceremony, have moist cloths ready so they can wipe their feet before putting their shoes back on.


Virtually everyone has their own pair of sunglasses so if you are providing sunglasses as a wedding favor make sure they’re unique.


When I officiated the wedding of reality show Survivor sweethearts Rob & Amber at the Atlantis in the Bahamas, their rings were presented on a seashell. Before exchanging rings, they washed their hands in a conch shell and had their mothers dry their hands. It was a poignant moment.


Simple – festive – Creative.

Keep these three words in mind as you plan for your memorable beach wedding ceremony!


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!

How Not To Be Stressed On Your Wedding Day!


Theresa & Nick is the couple whose wedding photo is at the top of my homepage. I officiated their wedding last year. They’re a fun couple and each has a great, silly sense of humor. We hit it off right away.


When I arrived at their venue, Pelican Hill, they had not had a “first look.” I found each busy with photos and last-minute touches. I marveled at how relaxed they were. They each gave me a warm welcome – some couples are so nervous they barely recognize who I am! Teresa and Nick were not just happy – they were joyful.


The sad thing is that too many of my couples are more stressed than joyful in that hour before their ceremony.


I’m now convinced that THE question is – how can you be joyful on your wedding day?


I think the answer is rather simple. You can do what Teresa and Nick did ~


  • You invite the right guests – only those people who mean something important to you.


  • You hire the right team of vendors – and let them do what you’re paying them to do.


  • You successfully navigate the shoals of parents’ demands.


  • You believe without a twinge that this is the person you want to travel through life with.


And I think there’s something else you can do – “should” do. . .


There’s been much written on “gratitude” in the past few years especially with Oprah having popularized the gratitude journal. It’s not that I’m an ungrateful person, BUT I think in the past I’ve reacted in a stereotypical, New York jaded kind of way to the notion of a “gratitude journal.”


Recently, though, I’ve discovered / rediscovered the power of mindfully making the “giving of thanks” a part of my daily ritual.


The following snippet is from Jacqueline Lewis, co-founder of the World Gratitude Map and blogger at


I think wedding stress could be reduced if each day you followed the exercise Lewis suggests – just make the “three things” all related to your wedding.


It’s worth a try and I think you’ll be surprised – for the good!


Gratitude Exercise ~

For the next five days, do the following daily:


Think of three things that happened that day for which you’re grateful. Jot them down.


As days pass, you may notice that you’re now on the lookout throughout the day for reasons to be grateful.


You may easily come up with a dozen candidates that you’ll winnow to three for your list—and your attitude will perk up as you start to see the world in a more positive light.


So, how do you experience joy on your wedding day?


At the risk of sounding obnoxious – just do what I’ve suggested in this post!


And then abandon yourself to the joy of the experience – let yourself and your partner be carried high on all the love and joy family and friends bring to your celebration!


Could joy be that simple?

Yeah – it could be – and it is!


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!








My Favorite Wedding Story – EVER!


If you read through my blog posts I think you’ll see that as a non-denominational wedding officiant I’ve been lucky to meet up with some wonderful people – couples, their families and friends, along with some of the most talented, creative and deep-down good people you’ll ever find wandering the earth!


And if you carefully read through my blog, you’ll also notice that I’ve had some unusual, if not downright wacky experiences – and it’s not just because most of my weddings are in the Southern California counties of Los Angeles and Orange!


I may not have seen it all, BUT I’ve seen a lot.


Since it’s the first weekend of summer and a great time for story-telling, I’m going to tell you one of my all-time favorite wedding stories – perhaps my most whack-a-do wedding story EVER and for that reason it is also a story that comes with an important lesson.


True story:

It was an outdoor wedding.


Argentina and Marco (30’s) (names changed) had been together five years and were great partners. Towards the end of their ceremony, as I was on the verge of zapping them with a blessing and then pronouncing them husband & wife, Argentina’s mother suddenly stood up and walked towards me.

I was puzzled but then remembered she was a widow. Maybe she wanted to thank folks for coming? Maybe she was supposed to read a poem and the couple forgot to tell me?


I walked over to her and in a voice only I could hear, she said these immortal words, “Do not pronounce them husband & wife, I have reservations.” 


beyond stunned, I thought, “Do you really think I’m going to hand over my mic so we can enjoy a Jerry Springer moment?”


I smiled and said to her, “The only reservation you better have is for dinner.” Hey, I was born and raised in New York City!


It was now the mother’s turn to be stunned; she didn’t move.  I raced back to the couple and pronounced them husband & wife.


The photographer, musicians and coordinator later swarmed me – no one could believe what had happened. But –  I was concerned about Argentina.


When I found her, I gave her a big hug and she then told me something I think of every time I meet with a couple. She said, “I guess I forgot to tell you about my mother.”


I froze.

Everyone knew that momma was “unpredictable.”

Everyone knew that momma was not happy with the marriage.

Everyone told Argentina not to invite momma.


Argentina knew her mother was trouble, but, out of guilt, she felt she “should” invite her. After all, she was her mother. And so she invited her – knowing that her mother may attempt to disrupt the joy of her day.


Throughout the morning, Argentina was anxious. Throughout the ceremony many of her guests were apprehensive. All because of her mother, who held the day hostage.


Argentina and Marco had gotten into many arguments over her mother. And, yes, I think I detected an “I told you so” smirk in Marco’s eyes after the ceremony!


Here’s the thing –


While planning your wedding, you and your partner can easily buy into the crazy making belief that there are things you “should” do regarding your wedding because that’s how things “should” be.


Stop and ask yourselves these Sanity Saver Questions –

  • Are there any decisions you’ve made out of guilt rather than desire?
  • Are you and your partner ready to live with the outcomes of those decisions?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen if you refused to be influenced by “guilt”?



No one – no friend, no family member – has the right to take your day hostage by selfish whims and desires.


Do not plan your wedding out of a sense of “should.” 

Plan it out of a sense of what you and your partner want to do. Be guided by what reflects you as a couple.


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!








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 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