You're Married. Now What?
You've just invested two years of your life planning the biggest party of your life. Everyone has been trying to tell you how to do this, and it's been very stressful. Finally, the day arrives and you can now relax. You both said I Do, so now it's done. You're married forever. Right?
Wrong. Hollywood and Disney give us this image that our wedding day is when our happily ever after begins. Once we walk back down that aisle, we can just sit back and let the years happily roll by. We are given images of a young couple standing on a mountainside, kissing, with the sun setting in the background as they begin to roll credits. Life doesn't work quite like that. So now what do you do?
That depends. We invest thousands of dollars and years in our education to prepare for a career we may change multiple times. How much did you invest in preparing for the most important relationship of your life? The one that sets the foundation for all you'll achieve?
The Gottman Institute's research shows that a happy marriage will bring more health, wealth, resilience, more successful children, and couples will live an average of 12 years longer than those who are not happily married. Have you considered taking some classes on how to have a happy marriage?
Maybe you skipped out on taking premarital education before you got married because you were afraid a minister would make you move apart while going through it. Maybe it was a small fear that the two of you might learn something about each other that might become a deal breaker and you didn't want to take that risk. Maybe you just couldn't afford it with all the expenses of the wedding. No worries.
Marital education can give you many practical skills that you can begin using immediately. What if you could find a program that was totally non-judgmental, didn't push any religion, and gave you practical skills supported by scientific research and, was actually kinda fun to do?
It's important for couples to learn how to prevent conflict from happening, and then how to move through it as quickly and painlessly as possible when it does happen. It's just as important to understand what to do if you hit a snag, so that you can move forward and deepen your relationship as a result. These are the skills often taught in a good premarital education program. If you missed taking it then, why not do it now? It's more important that you gain the skills before you need them, than to gain them before your wedding day.
I offer individualized marital education for couples who are just like you - wanting to assure you beat the odds and stay happily married for the rest of your lives. Want more information? PM me. Let's talk.
Have you heard that there's a virus going around that is causing a bit of a stir? I'm not trying to make light of a very serious situation that affects all of us, but I do hope that we all can keep some perspective through these unique and trying times.
Governmental restrictions are changing rapidly, and they affect many venues and sizes of gatherings that are allowed for an indefinite period of time. So how can you navigate some of this?
1. YOU CAN STILL GET MARRIED. So breathe! Your partner still loves you and wants to make that very special connection with you. That's not going to change. What may change is just the how and/or when.
2. DID YOU BUY WEDDING INSURANCE? If you did, good for you! Your wedding insurance may very well help you with covering expenses for relocation, date changing, cancelling, etc.
3. CONTACT YOUR VENDORS/VENUES. Now is the time to talk with them to review your contracts and talk with vendors about whether they are willing to waive change fees, adjust expenses associated with new locations, etc. For many venues defined as bars or restaurants, they may be shut down for a period of time.
4. CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS ONCE YOU KNOW WHAT THEY ARE.
a. While a venue may still be open, there may be a ban on gathering sizes, meaning your guest list may need trimming quite a bit.
b. If your venue is closed now, they may be able to reschedule your date for later this year or into next year, depending on their current availability.
c. Consider a small ceremony now with your reception later. There are many benefits to this, including more time to save money for the reception!
5. GATHERING RESTRICTIONS. This is where things can get tough! If the restriction says no gatherings more than 10 people, keep in mind that includes the bride, groom, officiant and 2 witnesses, let alone any caterer, servers, photographer, videographer, musician/DJ, etc.
So what options are left?
A. CONSIDER ELOPING. Smaller ceremonies can be much more intimate, meaningful, and less stressful for starters, let alone more budget-friendly.
B. HAVE A SMALLER WEDDING. You can still get married! Keep the number of attendees within governmental guidelines, and hire a professional videographer to capture your special day to share with others later on!
C. LIVE STREAM!! Technology today has us more connected than ever! Consider live streaming your ceremony so all your guests can witness your ceremony in real time. This is especially good for those who normally wouldn't be able to travel to your ceremony anyway, due to distance, cost or mobility.
D. RESCHEDULE YOUR WEDDING. Many venues and vendors are willing to work with you to change dates. Some have cancellation/rescheduling fees, so please check contracts and talk with them personally about whether they are willing to be more amenable given the circumstances. Do keep in mind that there may be challenges with date availability down the road as next year's brides are also booking in the same time frame now that you are. Flexibility in scheduling may be important. And don't wait! These difficult times may very well lead to many deciding they want to be together always and don't want to wait any longer to begin that journey as well.
If you have any questions, I am available as a resource, not just as an interfaith minister/wedding officiant, but also because I'm connected to many other wedding professionals. I can help you find replacement photographers, videographers, caterers, venues, etc.
Moving to Love in a Time of Fear
There's no question that there's a lot of fear to go around right now in the world. Fear is a powerful emotion that can cripple someone, keep them from moving forward in their lives or even from getting out of bed in the morning. Some are afraid of unknowns, such as change or the future. But there's another side to fear.
Fear is capable of motivating someone to greatness; to take action. Fear is a chemical reaction that takes place within our bodies when certain emotions are triggered. When we realize what it actually is, we can choose how to respond to it.
The first step is to understand what it is that we're truly afraid of that's causing all the chemicals in our body to create that fight-or-flight feeling in our stomachs. What are the unknowns or changes we think will be required that are generating these feelings? What are the possible outcomes that are so scary about the situation? Fear lets us know that there is an unknown ahead; that we feel unsafe; that there might be a chance of being hurt physically or emotionally. Therefore, fear in itself is quite helpful if kept in perspective. Fear in animals keeps them safe from bigger, more ferocious predators.
So how do we move from a place of fear to a place of love with something we really have little control over? Start by separating yourself emotionally from the fear. Imagine it's something that can be held in one's hand and examined from all angles, like a rubber ball. Evaluate the reality of the situation. How big is it? What are the ramifications that seem to be so scary? Are they real or is it the fear itself that's generating the emotions and chemicals happening? What are the potential outcomes of the decisions one might make as a result? What will it take to carry out those decisions, and will it be worth it in the end? Once we have those answers, we can control what we can, and let go of the rest.
For a couple facing decisions about canceling their wedding to remove potential risk to family and friends, it might mean choosing to postpone their wedding and reception. For another, it might mean getting creative around the "how" they get married, and how others can participate in their joy. That couple may plan a much smaller wedding now, holding out for a few months to host a reception with everyone in attendance. Another couple may choose to elope, skipping the big wedding and reception altogether. Perhaps another couple might use technology to allow their family and friends to witness their joining together live or recorded, and find other creative ways for family and friends to celebrate with them. In each of these cases, the couple has chosen to move through their fear, finding a creative way to let Love still be celebrated, while making wise choices for themselves and their loved ones. Checking with vendors regarding cancellation/rescheduling policies may be the first step - eliminate the unknowns so one has the facts to make a better-informed decision.
This same type of logic can be used in other areas of one's life. Whether it's fear around a job, a relationship, a life change or something that might require growth, we can use the same principles to move through it. Let fear be a positive motivator in your life!
Part Two: How Do You Feel Loved?
Almost every marriage counselor or marital coach has heard "You don't love me!" only to be responded to with "What do you mean? I take the trash out every Monday night and make you coffee every morning before I go to work."
Many people have heard of the Five Love Languages as a concept, but many do not know what it refers to. Dr. Gary Chapman created this concept as a way for people to talk about how they give and receive positive feedback (love) from others more readily.
In the above instance, one party is expressing the feeling they feel unloved. The other party is expressing the fact they demonstrate their love by doing things for their partner. The first person more than likely is expressing the sentiment that they want the other person to tell them how they feel and they don't seem to acknowledge how the other person demonstrates how they feel through doing acts of service for their partner.
Dr. Chapman identifies the Five Languages as:
The point to be made is that awareness is the key - knowing how you typically demonstrate how you feel and how your partner wishes you to demonstrate that is huge, as there may be a disconnect in that give/take part of your relationship. So is knowing how you wish others would demonstrate how they feel about you, so that you can communicate that to them and they then can act accordingly to show their love for you.
This is true not only in our love relationships, but also in how we relate to our parents, our children, our friends and coworkers.
What would happen if you showed your partner that you care by mixing up the different ways you let them know you love them? Try it! See what happens!
The ceremony was totally amazing! You had so much fun, and got to visit with all your family and friends. You might even think all the work you did, planning this shindig for a year was well worth it. Now you can sit back and relax, right? Not quite.
Now is when the real work begins. Those first feelings you had about each other that made your heart flutter, other parts of you get excited, and made you want to be with each other all the time will start to wane. But this doesn't signal an end to your happiness! In this series we'll talk about some of the ways to couples make it to their 50th wedding anniversary, even more in love than before.
Relationships, like an ocean, go through changes frequently. There will be times when you can't stand each other, and other times you'll be so grateful that your partner still puts up with you; other times when you miss each other and can't stand to be apart. So how do you ride these tides out?
First of all, understanding that the commitment you made to each other comes first. You took a vow to keep this commitment forever. It sets the foundation for all you do, and will do over the course of your life. It needs to be protected! Much like the ocean floor is protected by the depth of the water above, you need to insulate it from the superficial things that can affect its strength.
Make good decisions that don't put it at risk on a daily basis. This looks different for every couple, and so it's important that you have open conversations about what are acceptable risks for each of you, and for how long you feel comfortable accepting those risks.
For instance, one may have an opportunity to take a job that requires travel. How much time apart can you accept? For how long do you want to accept the distance between you? Are there ways to mitigate the emotional distance you may feel in addition to the physical distance when one is traveling? If you're the traveler, are there ways you can lessen the additional responsibilities at home your partner faces in your absence?
Next month - Part Two: How do you feel loved?
Have It Your Way
I recently saw the following posted in a Facebook group for brides-to-be from a recent bride.
"Sidenote for all the brides-to-be: We did some things for our wedding that were less traditional than most- and we did have family members question us or even judge us along the way. Remember that it's your day!!! Chop that train off if you want, have your dogs in your ceremony, buy Aldi wine- do whatever makes you happy! Your wedding is the first chance you have to show the world who you are as a couple, don't be afraid to make it unique! Your guests will have fun and you'll be glad that you went with your instincts- I sure was!"
This sentiment was also echoed to me by a recent groom at a wedding rehearsal this past week. He and his bride chose to do a themed wedding and had received a lot of push-back for doing something different than the expected norm.
I can't agree any more wholeheartedly that your ceremony is a reflection of who you are as a couple, and not as an individual or relative of anyone in particular. When you marry, the two of you will create a life together that is individualized. Why not start with your ceremony?
Do your vows promise what you really feel you can promise and want to say on that special day? Does your ceremony reflect what you believe spiritually? Does it represent why you fell in love, and what draws/keeps you together?
Today there are many ways to make your ceremony your own. Even if you both have very different spiritual beliefs, your ceremony can bring your families together rather than divide them.
Do the two of you love Star Wars, the Rat Pack era, or the Packers but still want a spiritual ceremony that draws together two different faiths? No problem. It can be done and with class! All it takes is a little creativity and an officiant that understands the different religious traditions you wish to bring together.
In the alternative, perhaps you want that traditional ceremony with your union spiritually blessed, but your minister/rabbi/imam is unable to perform a ceremony outside their congregation's location. That can be done as well. What you need to find is someone who has been seminary-trained and formally ordained and who can perform ceremonies virtually anywhere. The reason they need to be seminary-trained and formally ordained is because they are the only ones whose credentials give them the spiritual authority to bless your union so that your marriage is accepted in almost all churches, synagogues and temples.
So dare to dream! Knowing what you share as a couple, what defines you, and what glue holds you together is a strength that can carry you far in your relationship. Expressing it on your wedding day is a way to celebrate it!
Have questions? I'm happy to answer them for you!
Many couples feel stressed during the wedding planning process and assume that once the wedding takes place, all that stress just disappears and thus the strain the relationship feels will go away too. When it doesn't, they may question whether they made the right decision, or moved too fast.
The first truth? Marriage isn't a destination, but a journey. You've chosen a partner to take that journey with, but there will be many outside influences that affect your relationship and happiness along the way. While this can make logical sense when you first hear it, actually understanding that as it's happening can be a different story. Perhaps there's a job change, an unanticipated baby on the way, or a parent who needs care now that wasn't part of your relationship when you said "I Do!" The question at this point isn't what your partner will do, but what will the two of you do? Your marriage now is enhanced/weakened by what both of you bring to the situation. This is where the work begins - supporting/uplifting each other in areas of undeveloped strengths; working on yourself to continually improve what you bring to the table.
The second truth is that it's quite natural for us to test each other's commitment to this new thing called a marriage. We don't always do this consciously, but it often happens regardless. One partner begins leaving the cap off the toothpaste, as if waiting to find out whether the other will simply put the cap back on, call them on it, or leave. This type of testing may also be more common in couples who have not lived together before marriage, or who have been married before. If/when this kind of testing is happening, it's important to remember this is natural. Subconsciously or consciously we have just taken a gigantic step to say "I made a huge investment in this relationship and you as my partner, and I need to know you've done the same." This is a good time for the two of you to sit down and establish some basic rules to your relationship if you haven't done so already. Talk about what each of you needs/wants to feel happy on a daily/long-term basis. This could be as simple as "I need 8 hours of sleep a night and to take my showers alone most of the time" to "I need to be the Queen Bee in your life, above everyone else." Talk about your needs and what you can give, where you need help and come with creative ideas of how you can both support each other's needs/wants/desires so you're both supported on your journey to be happy.
Marriage is work, and that's often heard but not understood until one enters it. But it's by doing that work together that you enter relationship-ing with each other (a verb instead of a noun!) and deepen your emotional intimacy. And that's where you find the good stuff!
Finding The Sweet Spot
At some point in your ceremony you may have heard something to the effect of "two becomes one," that your hearts and souls are joined together for all eternity, and perhaps that you're now joined in the eyes of God. There couldn't be any stronger bond, right? You're joined in God's eyes! While this sounds blissful, it's not entirely true, and that paradigm can be the source of many challenges.
You'll live together. Go places together. Dream together. You may have children you raise together. But you are still individuals, with different experiences and ways you perceive information. You come from different backgrounds. You work in different jobs. You have different relationships with friends, coworkers and others in social media. All that means that the two of you are growing and changing all the time, and perhaps not at the same time, pace or way.
There may be times in your relationship where you feel out of sync because of this, thinking your partner just doesn't "get" you anymore. There may be times when something that never affected your spouse now seems to be a sensitive subject. How did that happen? You thought the two of you were so compatible when you got married, and now you're not sure who they are anymore. These differences can be as small as what type of cereal they prefer now, or as large as whether they still agree on having children, for instance.
Don't fret! There's probably just some growing going on, and that's ok. Sometimes you're the one who's growing and your partner is the one who needs to catch up, and sometimes it's the reverse. Sometimes you grow in different directions, and that's ok too.
Being married is a lifetime commitment in which a couple promises to witness the other's journey through life, and to acknowledge it and accept each other as each is, not as we expect them to be. There's an old saying that a man marries a woman hoping she never changes and a woman marries a man hoping to change him. That never works.
Challenges often occur in relationships when we have expectations that are not communicated ahead of time, are not agreed upon, or someone fails to live up to them in our eyes.
What's the answer? Stay connected! Communicate. Don't attempt to change the other back, as you can't. The only person you can change is yourself, and how you respond in situations.
Finding that sweet spot of where two becomes One while maintaining their individuality and their own life journeys is part of the good stuff we call marriage. Give each other permission to experience life in your own way and share that with each other, and you'll find much more satisfaction in your relationship.
What Makes It Work?
Love relationships often go through different stages, and sometimes we think that if we don't feel the same things we felt in the beginning that something is wrong. That may not necessarily be true.
In the beginning of many relationships, there's a strong physical connection. We get excited to see each other. We feel a strong pull to that person when we're not together. We may even feel a bit euphoric when we are together. It seems perfect! We're sure we have found The One, and we're going to spend our lives together in this state of bliss.
Then there's the first serious disagreement or one of you does something the other doesn't expect. You may think "What happened? I thought you were The One? Obviously I was wrong! How could you think/do that?" Our dreams are shattered and we start to wonder if we should run before things get any further along.
This is the time when we start to see that we are two individuals in a relationship, rather than one being a mirror image of ourselves. Yay! Step One is reached. Now is when we become acutely aware that relationships require some attention, and dare I say it, work?
We are human beings, first and foremost. We are shaped by life experiences, interactions with others, and life in general. As a result, we are imperfect by nature. So now we have two imperfect beings trying to have a perfect relationship. How is that going to happen??? It doesn't.
What does happen, is that two imperfect beings come together, make a commitment to be fully present for each other for the rest of their lives, in all their flaws; to be a witness to each other's existence and support each other in their search to find happiness. Together.
The couples who achieve the most marital satisfaction often talk about the deepening levels of intimacy they've achieved over time. I'm not referring to intimacy in a sexual way, but in the deeper levels of vulnerability they feel. They can share and receive love, support and acceptance from their mates as they reveal more of themselves, their true inner desires and flaws to each other.
When you commit to each other during your wedding ceremony, you embark on a journey of Oneness. There should be no more consideration that this person might possibly leave if there's a difference in opinion or one of you changes. The foundation and bond is set. All that remains is how to move forward.
When a couple accepts that foundational premise, no one takes sides in a disagreement any longer. There may be two differing opinions, but all that needs to be done is find the common ground or mediated place where both can find acceptance and move forward together. Disagreements are no long confrontational, since the two of you are committed to finding happiness together.
Instead of "You never help with the housework and it drives me crazy. Can't you help instead of sitting in front of the TV all weekend long?" a couple now is heard saying "Hon, I need help. I'm feeling I need a little more support from you regarding the housework. How can we make that happen?" and the spouse responding "Babe, I need a little time to unwind and then I'm happy to dig in. Can we start cleaning as soon as this game is over?"
How do you and your partner communicate in your relationship? Could you use a little help learning a new way to build a deeper connection? I'm happy to help.
Vendor Etiquette for Couples
Oh, how the times have changed!
There was a time when most couples got engaged, went to the church they attended every week, asked the minister to marry them at the church, and the reception was held in the church hall. There was a list of about 15 songs, a few standardized readings to choose from, flowers were chosen and your outfits too. That was about it.
With the growing population of couples who do not attend a particular church, temple or synagogue on a regular basis, there has been an increase in the complexity of planning. Finding and booking a venue can take over a year. A couple may not have a regular person they call on for spiritual guidance. There's no assumption that the ladies' guild would be catering, and all this means that parents of a couple are often unable to answer questions about what's customary, traditional or expected with regard to vendors and other matters as well. So let me address a couple of them.
To Feed or Not to Feed?
The choice of whether to include wedding vendors such as photographers, videographers, caterers, DJs and the wedding officiant in your food count is totally up to you. Traditionally they are included. However, whatever your choice, it is expected that you communicate that choice to them way in advance of your date. Many of your vendors have family at home, wondering if their mom/dad/sweetheart will be home to have dinner with them or not. Those who are involved for several hours of your day also may need to bring food with them if not included, such as photographers and videographers who often work through breakfast, lunch and dinner to capture your day for you.
Also, are you asking a vendor to participate in some way with the dinner or reception? Then include them. This group might include musicians, DJs, the wedding officiant, and venue owners if involved in setup/cleanup, service, etc.
If you are going to include a vendor, consider sending an invitation to them, asking them to RSVP. If you're not going to include someone, please let them know that as well so they can make arrangements to eat before/after providing services to you.
For those who are providing products and services to make your day special, the rule of thumb is no different than others who provide services to you. If you are pleased with their contribution to your day, consider a gratuity. If the photographer stood outside in the heat/rain/snow for 2 hours to capture 'that shot' you've always wanted, then consider a gratuity. Wedding officiants are often the least paid vendor on your list, but they are certainly not the one who puts the least amount of work and effort into your ceremony, and are responsible for assuring your marriage is both legal and legally recorded. If they have done a good job for you, if the ceremony was what you wanted it to be, consider a gratuity. Others to consider tipping? Photo booth operator, DJ, photographer, videographer, wedding planner, plated dinner servers, cake cutter, and those who will be cleaning up after your event.
Do you have other wedding etiquette questions you'd like me to address? Send me a message either through my website here or my Facebook page and I'd be happy to answer them for you.
Rev. Ronnie was ordained in 2010 as an interfaith minister through The New Seminary, located in New York City. She is available to perform ceremonies throughout the United States, aboard ship or in other countries.