Newly engaged and already wondering what you've gotten yourself into? Do you just want to hide in a box and wait til the planning's all over?
Planning a wedding is a LOT of work, especially if you both come from large families or have different ideas about how you'd like your special day to look. Choosing all the vendors to help you create your vision; trying to make all your friends and family happy; then there's the budget! How do you pull it all together?!?!
It's not uncommon for a couple (or one partner) to wonder if they really want to get married at all. You may question whether you're even right for each other. How did you not know he/she would be this (fill in the blank)?
Don't fret! Keep your eyes and hearts set on the end goal - spending the rest of your lives together. This is just one crazy day of it.
The planning process does however offer great clues to how the two of you react under stress, and how the two of you communicate when there are outside influences, strong opinions, and deadlines.
When I work with a couple during pre-marital counseling, this is what I focus on. I really don't care if one likes blue and the other likes pink. What I care about is how you each approach differences when they arise and how you work through them when they occur, because they will. We're all individuals with strong opinions, different experiences and visions for our own futures. And guess what? They change over time too! We look at your conflict resolution styles and develop insight into how the two of you can gain new skills and use the ones you already have, to build a strong and healthy relationship that will not only last, but grow become even better with time.
According to a survey published in the Journal of Family Psychology, couples with premarital education reported higher levels of marital satisfaction and experienced a 30 percent decline in the likelihood of divorce over five years.
Don't you owe your relationship that chance? If not now, before you get married, consider conflict resolution coaching after the honeymoon. The sooner the two of you learn to disagree and move through it, the better.
Today is my birthday. For me, that usually means a walk down Memory Lane and all the people I've known along the way, how far I've traveled on my journey, and how precious time is.
This morning I'm especially focused on the folks who've touched my heart over the years, with whom I've lost touch for whatever reason. When looking back, I know I regret not having made extra effort to spend more time with those folks and perhaps lesser time with those who seemed to drain me or that I spent time with because someone said it was the "right thing to do."
I remember planning my wedding when I was just 19 years of age, and listening to all the people around me telling me who I needed to invite. It sounded something like this: "Of course you have to invite (name)! They've been a friend of the family's for years!" or "They're your (blood relation). You have to invite them!" I personally hadn't seen that person since I was a child and in some instances not at all, and therefore had no real heart connection with them. But at that age, it's easier to appease rather than be honest and forthright.
When you plan your most deeply felt moments in your life, who do you really want to share them with? If a room is filled with many people you really don't know, are you taking time away from spending it with the people you truly care about and want to see? If a wedding reception lasts for 4 hours, and you have 250 guests, that means you have 240 minutes total to eat, listen to speeches, dance and visit with all your guests. Aunt X and Uncle Y may have flown from the other side of the country for your special day, and you now have a little over 2 minutes to spend with them while eating, dancing, and handling all the other responsibilities the bride & groom have on their wedding day.
"Micro weddings" as they're called are making a splash in other parts of the world for this reason and more. Not only do you get to truly enjoy your day with the people you love and care about, but you have more resources with which to do it. The cost per guest is greatly reduced. Options for venues open up. Ways to add special touches to your day that were cost-prohibitive now are within reach.
As an officiant I see couples stressed out when their wedding day becomes larger than they envisioned - when things don't go as they had planned.
So, perhaps you should consider "Who Loves You, Baby?" when planning your special day, and in the years to come. I've never heard someone regret having spent time with those dearest to them, but I have about time wasted doing things that weren't. Live from your heart every day, and surround yourself with those who do as well.
We all want our special day to be memorable, for both us as well as our guests. Here are a few ideas:
Is there a place that holds special meaning to the two of you? Can you hold your ceremony there? Love Shakespeare? Find a balcony and get married there Romeo & Juliet-style. I've performed ceremonies lakeside, in living rooms, parks, nestled in trees, on golf courses, in barns, fields and backyards as well as more traditional venues.
Does your ceremony reflect your beliefs and what you want to say, or is it something you found in a book? Does it combine your beliefs or only reflect one of you? Your ceremony can be as different as the two of you. The days of the unity candle being the only way to symbolize your union are over. In truth, it wasn't even the oldest way to do it. I love working with clients to create something special to just the two of you or to join a blended family together!
Give your special day a theme! A Rat Pack theme featuring ladies in polka dot dresses with sweetheart necklines, pearls, bright red lipstick and high heels, and the guys in suits with fedoras, Frank Sinatra music and a Las Vegas style reception would certainly be memorable. Love the Renaissance period? Rent Elizabethan style costumes for your wedding party.
Party favors and guest gifts can be expensive when you have a lot of guests and you add personalization to items! Besides, how many beer can koozies does your grandmother need? Ask several friends who've gotten married already whether people took their party favors home or left them on the table. You may see some items are more in demand than others. Also. Consider the same basic rules of gift giving you would at holiday time. What is it people value most? YOU! Spending time with you is the reason they came to your wedding or event in the first place. How can you assure they get just a little more of your time? Some couples choose to go table-to-table during dinner to greet their guests. Perhaps you hand a flower to the ladies when you do that. Use a Polaroid camera and snap pictures of you with your guests - one for you and one for them. That way you both can remember your special day together.
Make your party favors work extra hard for you. Consider cookie bouquets, cake pop towers or other edibles as decorations on your tables. They act as decorations. Party favors. And they're one less thing that needs cleaning up at the end of the event. Leftovers? Take them to your gift opening the next day. Personalized decks of cards can keep guests occupied while photos are being taken or dinner plates picked up before the dance, and used year round at home.
Consider what makes the two of you special, and that's what to share with your guests. If you're big on conservation, skip the paper invites, save the dates, and RSVPs. Use a phone and website instead. Vegan? Serve food that reflects you and your beliefs! This is YOUR day. Your guests may actually like trying something new and different.
Are you both shy? Then consider videotaping your smaller, more intimate ceremony. You can play it at the big party your family wants to throw for you later, while still saying the most intimate words to each other in a smaller setting.
Whatever you do, remember this is your day and your love story being told.
This year's wedding season isn't over for me yet, but I want to thank each and every couple that's chosen me to help them tell their love story and join them together. It's been humbling and a continued reminder for me of what love really looks like. I've listened as you've poured your hearts out to each other in your personal vows, for all your family and friends to hear as well as your partner. I wish I had copies of all of your words as they moved me almost as much as they did your sweetheart. Please do keep them and read them often to remind you of the "WHY" you're married to this amazing person who stood in front of you and vowed to love you forever, no matter what.
In your vows, many of you talked about how love is raw - messy - hard. Yes. True love means that regardless of what's happening, the two of you are committed to working past the hurt, the egos clashing and to find a solution that works for both of you. In the alternative, love means agreeing to disagree this time and work through any emotions that keep the two of you from moving forward.
I see young couples who have the wisdom to know that neither of them is perfect or has all the answers. These couples have had wonderful examples in their lives: usually older couples who have learned that true commitment makes finding those creative solutions easier, because they don't hold back to protect themselves out of fear that the other will leave them.
But given that commitment - emotions are still real and not debatable, meaning they still hurt whether you agree with them or not. The pain is raw and undeniable. How we express ourselves can make the difference between working through something quickly, loosening the bricks of your very foundation or a million shades of grey in between. You get to choose.
When you disagree, fight the urge to lash out. Hurting the other will only hurt you in the end. Your partner IS you now. Talk with your partner (and thus yourself!) the way you'd like them to talk with you - out of kindness and respect. Avoid confrontational language. Replace it with statements about how you feel rather than accusations about what they may have done.
And above all, tell your partner why you appreciate them, love them, and feel blessed they've chosen to be with you. That will deepen your relationship in the years to come.
Blessings to all of you,
The #1 fear for most people is a fear of public speaking. I believe the #1 fear for most engaged couples is the fear of pre-marital counseling, that time when the two of you need to speak publicly about subjects you're afraid may be deal breakers to your relationship. But there are really good reasons why you should feel that fear and do it anyway, as Susan Jeffers would say. I'd even like to suggest that it's displaced, since perhaps you've been given an antiquated definition of what it actually is.
Statistically, a survey published in the Journal of Family Psychology, states that couples with premarital education report higher levels of marital satisfaction and experienced a 30 percent decline in the likelihood of divorce over five years. That alone should send you running to a professional trained in premarital education! But let's not stop there.
Realistically, getting married is not an inexpensive task, and getting divorced is substantially more painful and expensive in the long run, oftentimes very disruptive to more than just the two of you when children are involved. I know that sounds terrible to say, but #Truth.
What if. What if! What if pre-marital counseling was truly educational. We all know that it's impossible for two imperfect human beings to have a perfect relationship. That just makes common sense, right? It also makes sense that life happens, and we change, grow, and learn, both as individuals and as a couple. Sometimes that means we don't do those things exactly the same way. A life-altering event such as the long-term serious illness of a parent, for instance, may change each partner differently. Have you discussed how you might respond to such an event if the time came? What if that response changes for one of you when it actually happens? Does that negate what you might have discussed earlier before you got married?
It's impossible to predict all that will happen in your relationship at the time you're engaged, but what can be predicted is that if you don't have the skills to communicate effectively when conflict happens, you will not be able to navigate any conflict successfully without hurt feelings and damage to your relationship.
So let's take a fresh look at pre-marital discussions. When I work with couples before a ceremony, I focus not on whether the two of you will want to paint the kitchen blue or hot pink, but rather how to talk with and to each other when a difficult discussion arises. We explore your individual responses to stressful situations, how your partner can support you during those discussions, and how the two of you can resolve them together, rather than retreating to individual corners and preparing for an attack or going on the offensive to avoid getting hurt.
There are several experts in the field of relationships that talk about being able to identify in minutes which couples will succeed and which will fail, with no prior history with the couples. Many of them measure your communication styles instead of whether you hold hands, talk baby talk to each other or share a series of hobbies together.
How do you and your significant other communicate with each other? How do you respond when you feel stressed or under fire? What's your partner's initial response? How is it working for you now? Is there room for improvement? If you plan for success professionally, wouldn't you want to plan for success in your relationships as well? Talk with your partner today and make sure you have all the tools you need to assure your success for years to come. If you're already in a committed relationship, why not improve your marital satisfaction and overall happiness together?
When we fell in love, it felt great! Our toes tingled, we smiled whenever we thought of each other, and it all felt so new, maybe even like nothing we'd ever felt before. We wanted that feeling to last forever, so we got engaged. Many of us spent months or literally years to plan our weddings. We started with the big plan, and worked our way down to the finest of details to make sure our day turned out perfectly. Then we got married. We could live in that feeling forever now, right? But that feeling didn't last. We asked ourselves what happened, and wondered why we ever got married.
When we get married, I believe a new sentient being is created, called Our Relationship. It requires constant care, protection, nurturing and ongoing attention in order to stay healthy, much like planting a tree does. Our Relationship goes through seasons and stages too, much like an apple tree. In the beginning, we find a safe place to plant it. Our Relationship also needs lots of water and nutrients in order to flower, and so we might even set up a schedule to assure it gets them. Bees are needed to pollinate the flowers, and continued watering and nutrients lead to beautiful fruit in the Fall. If we stop caring for Our Relationship then, and assuming it now knows how to take care of itself, it won't make it through the winter. So we wrap the trunk to protect it. We might put a cage around it to keep deer and other predators away when Our Relationship is most vulnerable.
Have you given your relationship that level of attention since you got married? If you have, you probably are enjoying the benefits of a fruitful marriage. If not, there is still time if the damage has not taken irreversible tolls. Start nurturing the tree of your marriage immediately, with kinder words, deeds and attention. Work with your partner to restore Your Relationship back to health, and you'll discover that now it also provides a deeper appreciation for the shared life the two of you create and nurture together.
I often hear from couples who would like to celebrate communion but choose not to because they don't want a really long ceremony, especially if it's being held outside in the hot sun. They also know that there will be attendees who are not used to a full mass, and they don't want those guests to feel uncomfortable. The answer? Do what this couple did! We served an abbreviated communion to the wedding party and closest family members immediately following the rehearsal! It was a beautiful way to honor their faith, make the family happy and also be considerate of their guests who are not of the same belief system. This one was done at Cottage Vineyard and Winery in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
Wedding rehearsals can be a real bother in some ways, and a saving grace in others. Yes, it can be difficult to get your wedding party assembled all in one location the night before your ceremony, especially if some of them are coming from other locations, need to work that day, or have other commitments. Yes, there may be questions of whether you need to provide a meal for them, overnight accommodations, or more. And yes, there are good reasons why you should definitely consider a wedding rehearsal!
During the wedding rehearsal you have the opportunity to find out if your vision for your perfect ceremony will actually work. Walking from your beginning location to the altar may in fact tell you that your processional music isn't long enough, for instance, to allow time for the entire wedding party to reach their locations at the altar. Having everyone know exactly where the wedding venue is can help assure everyone is on time for the ceremony. Addressing family relationship issues with who is being escorted by ushers and where are they being seated and by whom can be addressed. Walking through the ceremony with your wedding officiant also means that you can help those last minute nerves by knowing what's going to happen, in what order, how to deal with flowers in your hand when you're exchanging rings, and so much more.
Who runs/coordinates the wedding rehearsal can be another question for clarity.
Many photographers now create wedding day timelines for their clients. These timelines are great for helping the day to move at an acceptable pace for all in attendance, assuring your guests feel comfortable and you've set aside enough time for things such as makeup/hair appointments, getting dressed, guests to arrive by shuttle service, photos before and/or after the ceremony, and when cocktail hours and meals may be served.
If you're getting married at a professional venue, they may have someone on staff that coordinates setting up chairs, moving guests from one part of the venue to the other, and getting food set out at certain times. These professionals may also be in a position to guide you in a pinch.
Your wedding officiant is the best choice to run your wedding rehearsal. He or she is the only one who truly knows the nuts and bolts of what is being included in your actual ceremony, from start to finish. Your officiant knows who needs to be where and at what point in the service. Lining up your wedding party so that they are in the appropriate order to play their respective roles and knowing when parents, grandparents and guests of honor are seated is also part of your officiant's responsibilities. Your officiant knows how to best set up the altar for any additional parts to the ceremony you may be incorporating, such as a unity candle, tree planting or hand fasting. Your officiant also has the actual ceremony being used, and can walk you through it so you know what you need to say and when.
The wedding rehearsal also is a good time for you and the officiant to communicate about any last minute changes, such as unexpected guests of honor in attendance, a decision not to include personal vows in the ceremony, a change in weather, or young ones or pets that just may not be quite up to the task of carrying rings or flowers to the altar.
A seasoned professional officiant also knows alternative ways to accomplish outcomes if the need arises, and can offer last minute advice during a rehearsal. Oftentimes the officiant has performed other ceremonies at the same venue and can make suggestions based upon that prior experience.
When I coordinate a wedding rehearsal, I walk the wedding party through the ceremony twice so that we can answer everyone's questions and we all go home knowing what's happening the next day. I want you to be able to relax and enjoy your very special day with as little anxiety and unexpected moments as possible! I am also available to say grace at the rehearsal dinner as well, should my couple wish it.
There are so very many ways to make your wedding day your own. From the time you were young, you probably had some idea of what you wanted your day to be like. Your partner probably did as well! Now that there are two of you, there can be a blending of your ideas to create something that truly reflects your personal style, your spiritual beliefs and the love and life you share.
I perform themed weddings often! Do the two of you have a love of all things western or Hawaiian? Then why not have a western or Hawaiian themed wedding? Perhaps you both love the ocean. How about a nautical theme? Want to get married at a vineyard? No problem!
For instance, if planning a western theme, tie the knot outdoors. The wedding party could wear Western boots or hats, you could ride up to the altar on horseback, you can do a unity ceremony using rope and serve pulled pork sandwiches with beans or host a pig roast. Are you more nautical? Why not say your vows by a lake, on a boat or in a stream? You can do a unity ceremony using a weaver's hitch, lake water or sand. Serve seafood, walleye or lake trout. Always dreamed of a wedding in a vineyard? I can create a unity ceremony using wine. Hold it mid-morning and serve grapes with a selection of cheeses, wine and crackers. Instead of feeding each other a piece of wedding cake, why not mash some grapes the old fashioned way?
Whatever is special about the two of you, I can help you create a theme and write a wedding ceremony around it. I work with you to write a ceremony that completely reflects what you want your special day to say to each other, to your guests, and what will make the two of you feel like your hearts and souls have been joined together like no other.
Join me this Mother's Day at Unity Christ Center, 1808 Folsom Street, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We'll be celebrating Mother's Day and motherly love in all its forms starting at 10:00 a.m.
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.