Confronting Wedding Preparation Anxiety

I work with a lot of anxious brides, grooms, and other wedding stakeholders who are busily preparing for the BIG DAY. Or really, the BIG DAYS, as more and more wedding activities are packed into the days leading up to and following the actual day of the wedding itself. Dealing with the details and demands of such things is enough to make a grown person want to curl up in a ball and produce a high-pitched cry, at the very least!

I’m not a therapist, but my social worker husband is. Rock sees many clients who suffer from panic attacks. One of the first things he suggests they do when feeling anxiety closing in on them is to ask themselves one question about the situation: “Is this danger or discomfort?” It is a deceptively simple question, but one that often gets to the heart of the moment and helps them to regain perspective.

For example, when Trish learned three days before her wedding that her dress would not be finished in time for her wedding day, she could have done that curling up in a ball thing. Or started drinking heavily. Instead, recognizing that this was certainly an uncomfortable situation, but not one that endangered her life or anyone else’s, she chose to go to a concert that night with her fiancé and some friends who were in town for the wedding. Her mom and aunts went shopping for wedding dresses that night, picked out four dresses in her size and brought them home. The next day Trish tried them all on, chose the one she liked best, and went on with her other wedding preparations. Was it her ideal dress? No. Did she have a fantastic wedding day anyway? Yes, because she was able to keep her perspective.

Of course, many situations are more complicated than this example. But most of us can benefit from any tool that can help us to take a little time out to reconsider things from a new perspective, rather than the one that has thrown us into a panic.

So, the next time things aren’t going the way you had hoped and you feel the panic starting to rise up inside you, try asking yourself, “Is this danger or discomfort?” and see if the answer doesn’t shed some new light on the moment. This one little question can go a long way toward helping you deal with the inevitable stresses that accompany wedding preparations today.

Wed on the Fourth of July?

When I mentioned to a friend that I had a wedding scheduled for the Fourth of July, he joked that July 4, “Independence Day” seemed a better day for a divorce ceremony than for a wedding ceremony. I suppose on the surface that would appear to be true. But if you look again and consider some other angles on July 4 as a wedding day option, maybe it will make a little more sense.

For example, when someone marries, that person becomes independent from the tyranny of the modern dating scene. I’ll admit, I’ve been married more than a few years and I don’t know first-hand what it’s like out there these days. But the reports from friends who have dated or who have tried to date recently are not so good. When you marry a true friend and life partner, you are free to put all of that craziness of dating behind you!

OK, maybe that’s stretching it a bit.

On a more serious note, let’s consider for a moment the signers of the Declaration of Independence back on that hot summer day in 1776 Philadelphia. What they did that day took tremendous courage. They put it all on the line when they signed that document. If caught by the British, they could have been hung for treason. Yet they took that chance because they believed that their actions could eventually provide a better life for all Americans. Of course, there were no guarantees that the American experiment would succeed, but they took the chance anyway.

So, too, with marriage. There are no guarantees that the two people getting married so enthusiastically today are going to have a good marriage tomorrow. In fact, statistically speaking, there seems to be about as good a chance for an unsuccessful marriage as there is for a successful one. But every day people step up and proclaim in front of family and friends that they are going to love and honor this one other person for the rest of their lives. In making the choice for a committed relationship, a person can find a certain freedom to move forward in sharing their journey of life with another human being. Are they taking a chance? You bet. Is it worth it? Well, I guess you’ll have to ask them, for the answer will likely vary from person to person.

Then again, on a less serious note, for some couples, the choice to wed on the Fourth of July could be based on something as simple and delightful as my experience a few years ago while attending my cousin’s July Fourth wedding. The wedding ceremony was lovely, the dinner was delicious, and now as the sun was setting it was time to go out on the deck for the local fireworks display. We were served champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries as the fireworks exploded over our heads. For those of us at the wedding, the fireworks were a fantastic way to celebrate both the birthday of our country and the beginning of a marriage. Not a bad reason for having a July Fourth wedding, now is it?

Important Questions to Ask of Your Wedding Officiant

Choosing your wedding officiant can be a difficult job, one that many couples postpone as long as possible. Yet, if you are going to have a wedding that is personalized, customized, and reflects who you are as a couple, the choice of your officiant is key to making that happen. What follows is a list of questions to ask of your wedding officiant, suggested by the Celebrant Foundation and Institute, in order to make sure that the officiant you choose is a good fit.

How do you create the ceremony? Do we have final approval over the script? Ideally, the officiant should collaborate with you every step of the way so that the ceremony is tailor-made for you. Don’t let a boilerplate ceremony be imposed on you.

When will you arrive? The officiant should be available at least 45 minutes before the ceremony in order to run through any last minute changes, and to coordinate details with readers, musicians, photographers and videographers.

Does your fee include a full rehearsal at the wedding venue? Many officiants don’t rehearse, but a full rehearsal is important for a beautifully choreographed ceremony and for calming last-minute nerves.

Can we vary the traditional choreography of a wedding? You may wish to face your guests rather than the officiant, or have the officiant stand to the side instead of between you and your spouse. Make sure your officiant is open to these suggestions.

What training do you have in creating and officiating at ceremonies? Many officiants have no specific training. Look for those who have a sound background in the history of ritual and ceremony, knowledge of wedding traditions around the world, the ability to manage and choreograph a wedding party, and experience in public ceremonial speaking.

Will you work with our other wedding professionals? The officiant should coordinate as needed with musicians to provide music cues for the ceremony, with photographers and videographers to assist them in getting the best shots, and with the staff of your venue to ensure that the ceremony will not conflict in any way with their requirements.

Add your own questions to this list as you prepare to interview prospective officiants. When you find the answers you are looking for, you will have found someone you can trust to work with you to create a wedding ceremony that is just right for you!

A Healthy Marriage – REALLY?

These past few days yet another politician is publically apologizing for marital infidelity. Yikes! Between media coverage of celebrity marriages, divorces, and all the associated drama, and the many other images of struggling marriages in film and on TV, it would be easy to get the idea that real, live, healthy marriages don’t actually exist. Well, rumor has it, they do!

Recently I met with an engaged couple at a local coffee venue to talk about their wedding ceremony, as I do so often at the beginning of a collaboration with a bride and groom. In our conversation we covered a lot of territory. I took copious notes and after we had finished they left, only to turn around in the parking lot and promptly return. Oh, yeah, they said, “We want to include an acknowledgement and expression of gratitude to our parents for modeling what healthy marriages looks like.”

How cool is that? Not only that both sets of parents have been able to model healthy relationships for their children, but that their children, who are now adults planning to be married, recognize the powerful influence that their parents have been in their ability to choose marriage with confidence. “We can definitely work that into the ceremony!”, I told them.

Meanwhile, do you think we could get some media coverage? I suppose there’s always YouTube…

The Gift of Waiting

Wow, a lot of us are in a hurry these days! We rush from here to there and from there to someplace else, multi-tasking as we go along, hardly stopping to take a breath. A brief but important episode at Leah and Kyle’s recent wedding served to remind me of the value and gift of slowing down and, yes, waiting!

I was standing with Kyle as Leah and her father approached, walking down a beautiful long path through Rau Garden in St. Charles. Pachelbel’s Canon was being played by the musicians. When Leah and her dad arrived at the front, the musical piece was only about half finished. I recalled that we had briefly discussed this possibility at the rehearsal. At that time the bride and groom had agreed that the music should just run its course; they would be in no hurry.

And, so, here we were, waiting, waiting, and waiting for the music to end. Awkward giggles, sweat, sideways glances, and a few tears were shed. Although a little uncomfortable, this waiting, it also provided an opportunity for the wedding ceremony’s participants to soak in the moment, THIS MOMENT, and to be a little more aware of the momentous shift that was taking place in their own lives and in the lives of one another. Come to think of it, isn’t that one of the purposes of a ceremony in the first place?

When the music ended and Leah released her father’s arm to take Kyle’s hand, the symbolic moment of moving from one way of being as single people, to a new way of being as a married couple, was very likely more deeply appreciated because we had been required to wait for it. And it was definitely worth the wait!

Home Is Where the Heart Is

As a child growing up in the days before VCRs, DVD players, and cable TV, I looked forward to the yearly opportunity to watch The Wizard of Oz when it was broadcast on network television. Besides the fact that the tornado footage frightened me even more than the witch and her flying monkeys, I always got completely caught up in Dorothy’s adventures as she and her friends followed that yellow brick road.

Near the end of the story, Dorothy is sent back from Oz to Kansas after she closes her eyes and repeats, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” When she awakens in her bedroom surrounded by her family, one of the lessons Dorothy says she has learned is that if she ever wants to go looking for her heart’s desire, she will look no further than her own backyard. As a child I never knew what she meant by that. Recently, though, I thought of Dorothy, her heart’s desire, and of what we can find in our own backyards. And then I thought of Katie and Jered’s wedding.

This past weekend, I officiated at a wedding ceremony for Katie and Jered. During the months in which we discussed their ceremony script, there were many things I learned to enjoy about them as a couple. But one of the loveliest things about the ceremony itself was the significance of the location.

Katie and Jered had decided early on in their planning that they wanted to have their wedding ceremony in the backyard of her parents’ home, which used to be her grandparents’ home. They decided to do this, at least in part because this is the same backyard where, thirty-three years ago this month, Katie’s parents Bob and Maggie were married.

At wedding ceremonies we celebrate, among other things, that two people have found someone with whom they can share their hearts and make a home. Of course, Katie and Jered and Bob and Maggie did not find their heart’s desire in that backyard, but it was there that they celebrated the treasure, the desire of their hearts, found in one another. What a fabulous reminder that our love for one another is truly sacred, right in the midst of our everyday lives, even in our own backyards.

Honoring the Deceased in Your Wedding Ceremony

Weddings are filled with memories and emotions for most of their participants. This is especially true if someone who was close to the bride or groom has died, and even more so if the death occurs within a few months of the date of the wedding.

For this reason, I always ask couples if there is someone whom they would like to remember in their ceremony. This can be done by simply mentioning the name of those who have died as part of the introductory remarks. Some couples prefer that I add a few words about the one who has died, describing the significant role she or he played in their lives. Other couples place photos in the ceremony area, light candles, or have special flowers in memory of those who have died.

At Dana and Mark’s wedding last September, Dana chose to have her father’s saxophone up front in the ceremony area as a symbolic representation of his spirit. Personal touches like this can help you to symbolize your ongoing connection to the one who has died.

Whatever you may choose to do, the goal is not to distract from a joyful celebration of a marriage, but to acknowledge the love and significance of those who, though deceased, continue to be alive in the hearts and minds of the bride and groom and their families.

Green Is Beautiful

We are living in a time of rising eco-consciousness, which is just fine with me. Every aspect of our lives needs to be examined, possibly challenged, and often changed so that we may all learn how to live in a more sustainable way, thus ensuring a healthy planet for future generations.

And this includes weddings. For many of us, considering the environmental impact of our actions is still new and unfamiliar territory. Thankfully, there are plenty of people who have been giving this subject lots of thought. Search for “green weddings” on the web and you will see what I mean.

I was delighted to discover that one of the couples at whose wedding ceremony I will be officiating in June is among those who are leading the way for the rest of us. Leah’s blog not only has suggestions for brides and grooms who want to make their weddings a little greener, but she also rates the suggestions in terms of which are the most economical. Enjoy!

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