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

10 Questions You Might Not Have Asked Your Partner

sarah zimmer photography


When we talked, I felt brilliant, fascinating;
she brought out the version of myself I like most.

Nadir Alsadir


Recently I learned that close friends of mine (not the couple in photo) are divorcing after twenty years of marriage. I was / am stunned. I had no idea. Not a clue.


This blog is about weddings and not divorces. About beginnings and not endings.

Yet, it’s been hard for me to write as I keep thinking on my friends – and on their wedding day.


I officiated their inter-faith ceremony down in Orange County – Laguna Beach way. I recall sharing with them and the other guests a memory from my time living in the South Pacific. I lived on an island in the Truk Lagoon. The people spoke Trukese and my favorite Trukese word is “Achengacheng.”


“Achengacheng” literally means anything that can be easily broken and it is also the Trukese word for “love.”


The wish I offered them during their wedding ceremony was that they would always be each other’s “achengacheng” and that they would always hold each other as precious.

Corny? Maybe! I like to think, though, that they tried – in more ways than I can imagine.


But how do you keep the love from “breaking”?

How do you honor the “achengacheng”?


There are so many ways, yet, I believe it all comes down to COMMUNICATION. As I stress in my pre-marital communication coaching –


The quality of your life is in direct proportion to –

The quality of the communication in your life


true story

One night I grabbed dinner at my favorite local bistro. The staff knows me and brings me “the usual” without my having to ask. I was lost in a book when I happened to glance up and look across the room. Two tables lined the opposite wall.


At one sat a young couple in their 20’s, laughing, animated. And at the other table sat an elderly couple in their 70’s, talking, smiling. I thought – now here’s a dual snapshot of marriage. Except for the wrinkles, little differentiated the older couple from the younger. Both were smiling, talking and laughing.


The German philosopher Nietzsche claimed that, in its essence, marriage is one long, grand conversation.

A lifetime of hearty conversation is the surest sign of real love.


If marriage is a conversation –

Do you and your partner enjoy talking with each other?

Are you comfortable just being together?

Are there any topics that are understood to be off limits?


When I meet with couples to create their wedding ceremony, I give them the

following list of 10 Questions – to get them thinking and talking.


Perhaps a few of these will spark a new conversation between you and your partner.


10 Questions You Might Not Have Asked Your Partner


  1. When people speak of your wedding, what 3 words do you want them to say? What 3 words do you not want them to say?
  2. Is your wedding day a beginning or a touch point in your life together?
  3. What was the most moving, most joyful wedding you’ve attended?  What do you want to be the most joyful moment of your wedding day?
  4. Is your partner your life OR does your partner give you life?
  5. Who are your role models for marriage? Why are they models? How realistic a model are they?
  6. What makes your partner worthy of your love? What makes you worthy of your partner’s love?
  7.  What are your expectations of each other? Do your expectations make each of you the best you are capable of being?
  8. What is your biggest fear for your life together?
  9. What is your definition of success? As an individual? As a couple?
  10. On you 25th wedding anniversary, what would you like to look back upon?

At the risk of sounding corny –

Are you and your partner each other’s ACHENGACHENG?!


You can find more Conversation Starters in my book

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


6 Easy Ways To Personalize Your Non-Denominational Wedding Ceremony

As a non-denominational wedding officiant, almost every weekend I stand before a couple and bear witness to their vows. And each time, as I look out on the gathering of family and friends, I realize that the couple before me will probably never know just how much they are loved.


For me, a wedding ceremony is a HUGE hug that family and friends offer to the couple.  Yes, at its core, the ceremony honors and celebrates the love and commitment of the couple.  BUT, the ceremony is also that unique time to celebrate all the loves that have helped to bring a couple to that moment in time – parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends tried and true.


Couples come to me because they want a non-denominational wedding ceremony that evades the clichés and that is personalized. More times than not, they’re uncertain as to what kind of ceremony they can have if they have no religious backgrounds or if they don’t want to incorporate the religious traditions of their families.


So, what can they do?


Here’s the thing – the true emotional impact of a ceremony is created by the “visuals.”  The truest way to personalize your ceremony is to incorporate the people, the significant loves, who are part of the fabric of your life together.


This was brought home to me last month when I officiated the Los Angeles wedding of Nikki and Mark.


Mark’s family is staunch mid-West Catholic and Nikki’s is culturally Jewish. They didn’t want a religious ceremony and, in fact, Nikki didn’t want “God” mentioned. They did want a ceremony that had a rich texture to it.


Here are 6 ways they personalized their ceremony ~


  1. Mark’s parents escorted him down the aisle; Nikki’s parents escorted her.
  2. They had one reading that was offered by both fathers – and, yes, the dads failed to choke back tears!
  3. After my words of good cheer and encouragement (just prior to the exchange of vows), I invited both sets of parents to come up and light the tapers on either side of the Unity Candle that was set inside a protective hurricane lamp. The lamp was on a festive table underneath a Chuppah (the Jewish side was happy to see the Chuppah and the non-Jewish side thought it was a lovely decoration). After the parents lit the tapers, they all hugged Nikki and Mark and returned to their seats. Then Mark and Nikki lit the Unity Candle.
  4. All of this was as a prelude – a moment of blessing by the families – to the Exchange of Vows. Mark and Nikki had written down in booklets their own vows.  I invited one of Nikki’s grandfathers and one of Mark’s grandmothers to present the booklets to them.
  5. The rings were presented by two other grandparents, each of whom has been married for sixty years to their respective spouse, which means the rings were presented from a combined legacy of one hundred and twenty years of married love!
  6. After I pronounced them husband and wife, Mark broke the glass (something he suggested).


While this might sound like a lot of choreography, it actually wasn’t. The entire ceremony, from the time I took my place until they kissed, was no more than thirty minutes – and they had a combined total of sixteen attendants (mixed sex on both sides)!


The ceremony was personal because Mark and Nikki incorporated elements that made sense to who they are as a couple and they decided to place the emphasis on family.

It was warm and gracious as it honored the sacredness of what they were doing, yet, was not “religious.”



People go to a ceremony hoping that it won’t be too long or too boring.

A personalized ceremony allows people to feel rooted and renewed and refreshed.

It’s all about providing people the opportunity to give you that big, tight “hug” –

and so bless, and confirm your union!


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

So What Is The Value of Pre-Marital Counseling??


When not officiating non-denominational weddings here in Los Angeles, among other things I teach at UCLA Extension. Last month I finished up my eleven-week course, The Dynamics Of Interpersonal Communication. 


All of my communication work – including my pre-marital communication coaching – is based in the belief that we all do what we do and say what we say for a reason.  No one “just is.”


Flowing from that is my conviction that in every relationship, over time, we fall into dance steps, patterns for dealing with conflict as well as for expressing feelings, needs and desires.


The question, though, becomes – are those dance steps working for you or are they sabotaging you and your partner?


Earlier today I got an email from Pamela, a former student. She wrote:


Recently my boyfriend and I have really been working on our communication. For perhaps the very first time I noticed that when I’m upset and need to ask him something, I get very frustrated and then just explode into accusatory statements instead of explaining what I want or what I’m feeling.


Usually that sets off our “normal” fight of “YOU never. . .well, YOU never. . .” but this time I stopped and told him, “Look, I have a lot of trouble with this so can you please hug me and work with me instead of reacting to me?”


And he actually did!


It was an interesting moment for both of us.  He said to me, “Well, I never knew that. I thought you were just cruelly accusing me, doing your usual annoying girlfriend thing.”


We talked about ways I can bring up issues without waiting too long and then exploding.  And now he’s being less reactive to my tone and more understanding when I repeat something three times in a row – he gets that it’s because I’m having difficulty expressing my self and am caught in a “broken record mode”.


Now when I do that (which I did this morning), he just pretends to be a broken record too and we make it a joke between us.


I’m excited for Pamela and her boyfriend because of the good that has come from their mutual kindness and determination to break a habit that chipped away at the quality of their life together.


Pamela’s boyfriend thought her lashing out was just a “girlfriend thing.”  It wasn’t.

However, it wasn’t until she came clean and actually asked him for what she needed that he was able to really understand what was going on.


This was a breakthrough moment in their relationship.  This is THE value of pre-marital counseling – which I call pre-marital communication coaching. It let’s you have the kind of breakthrough moment that Pamela and her boyfriend had.


And, hey, never underestimate the power of a good hug!


Pamela reminds us all that life really can be far simpler than we make it out to be!


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 Groom Should Never Say to a Bride!


I love this picture of Melody and Michael – one of my couples!


Michael really impressed me when I first met with them. Not only did he know how long they’d been together, he had clear ideas about what he wanted their non-denominational ceremony to be about. Heck, he even knew the color of their table cloths!


Michael worked with Melody in creating their wedding day. And as corny as it sounds, the satisfaction and joy and so much more of all that “work” is what this photo captures.


I always remind a couple that a wedding is the celebration of their life together and that it is not the bride’s coronation!


I feel disappointed when a groom shrugs his shoulders, smiles and says, “whatever she wants is fine with me.”  No!  That’s not what your celebration is about. Granted, a groom doesn’t necessarily have to go to the florist, but. . .


Several years ago I had the pleasure of working with event designer Colin Cowie when I officiated the non-denominational wedding ceremony of Survivor reality show sweethearts, Rob and Amber. Colin is wildly creative and has a great, wry sense of humor.


In one of his articles at The Huffington Post he offers several suggestions for how a groom can become involved in the planning. His ideas are spot on and I invite you to read his post: Finding Your Niche In Wedding Planning.


I especially agree with his opening insight:


Whatever style of wedding you and your fiancée prefer, as the groom you need to decide early on how involved you want to be in the planning process, and make sure your bride understands and is supportive of your role.


In my book How To Plan Your Wedding – and Stay Sane! I show how good, healthy communication is the surest way to vaccinate yourself from the insanity-inducing moments of wedding planning.  And so I agree with Colin that you and your partner need to talk about preferences right from the start.


I’d also add to Colin’s list the ceremony itself.


I’m often contacted first by a groom and this is because either the couple did strategize at the beginning and scouting potential officiants was put on the groom’s to-do list or because the groom grew up with a stronger church-going affiliation.


While some grooms are so detached from the planning that it even extends to their opinions about the ceremony, my experience is that most grooms want to have a say in creating the ceremony. Ritual crosses the gender divide in ways that much of the wedding does not.


Last winter I officiated down in Orange County the ceremony of a couple where the groom is a professional football player. If you were going to go stereotype you’d think there’s no way this guy would have any coherent thoughts about the ceremony. But Logan was not a stereotype – he was a groom who had a shared vision of his day with his bride, Kelly.


As we talked about the ceremony, his insights were so astute that he managed to calm Kelly who was nervous that the ceremony was going to be flimsy (it wasn’t).


I was moved by how he cared for Kelly and understood that they wanted me to officiate a ceremony that was going to celebrate THEM!


I love creating wedding ceremonies for many reasons – whether those ceremonies are non-denominational or inter-faith or cross-cultural. But the chief reason is that every ceremony reminds us that for those who keep their hearts open to love, all things are possible.


Create that reminder together!

A Celebration of Choice in Los Angeles!


I recently had a final meeting with a couple who are getting married next month. During a leisurely Starbucks conversation, the groom, Max (names changed, said this to me:


“I had to reach rock bottom in past relationships before I could find Kate I had self-imprisoned myself in a gulag of abuse. I knew I wanted better and so I set out in search of Kate.”


The old cliché that marriage is a “ball and chain” made no sense to Max, as for him marriage was freedom – to experience love, to love and to move closer to being the man he wanted to be.


One of my favorite poets, Mark Doty, observed:

How shall we know ourselves, except in the clarifying mirror of some other gaze?


Max and Kate understand that their wedding is a celebration of choice – a celebration of moving into the light.


And so for them, marriage, with all of its unknowns and uncertainties, is about overcoming fear: the fear of not being worthy.


Can I as a wedding officiant predict the future for any couple? No.

BUT with Max and Kate I can bet my money that theirs is an enduring love.


Because once you’ve “seen” what they’ve seen, it’s very, very hard to “un-see” it!


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.’

Dante Alighieri


Do You and Your Partner Laugh Every Day?!


Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.

Rose Franken


I recently happened on an old issue of Vanity Fair magazine, in which fashion designer Marc Newsom offers a profile of fellow men’s wear designer Paul Smith. I happen to really like Paul Smith shirts and so I was curious to learn something about the guy.


It’s an affectionate tribute, but the real gem from the piece comes in the last sentence.  Paul Smith attributes much of his success to this:


“Every day of my life I witness something that makes me burst out laughing.”


Wow!  Now that’s a skill – and it got me thinking. . .


When I first meet with a couple, the conversation is lighthearted and even if there are sticky family issues to discuss, a couple is usually optimistic. Then, when I meet up with a couple just weeks from their great day, they often look haggard!


You don’t need me to remind you just how mad-crazy and bone-crunching life can be.  And planning a wedding, no matter the size, is draining.


However, the question I ask you is this:

Are you laughing? 

Are you feeling happy?


If not, what’s going on?

What’s draining you and what can you and your partner actively do to restore your ability to laugh?


Getting married is a serious undertaking.

Throwing a wedding is a serious undertaking.


And that’s why you gotta laugh!


If you’re doing more stressing and more crying than laughing, then something is out of alignment.


How can I help you??