Thursday, October 3, 2013
10 Qualities of an Emotionally Healthy Wedding: The Couples's Version
A pastor friend recently blogged about his daughter’s wedding, and how he and his wife worked to make it an “emotionally healthy” one. That great article inspired me to see what I could write along the same lines – for the couple. If you’re planning a wedding, this is for you.
1. Consider whether less could be more.
A big crowd. A huge expense. Tons of food. A DJ, steel band and an orchestra. Many thousands of dollars spent for flowers. It’s hard to know where to draw the line when you’re planning such a momentous day, but it never hurts to purposely stop and think: Will it put you in debt? Are you trying to make an impression, or have a great celebration? Simplicity can be beautiful as well as practical. Ask you parents about their wedding. Haven’t things changed! But ask yourself, has it been only for the better? No one can tell you what to do for your wedding, but be intentional. Don’t just let it happen to you. Be aware of your motives. Be clear with yourself about your goals, and consider whether in some way less may actually be more.
2. Keep your perspective.
In spite of what you may have heard, this day is probably not the most important day of your life. It’s a big day, but there will be other big days too. Don’t set yourself up for disillusionment or disappointment by having unrealistic expectations. Unexpected and unplanned things have a way of happening. Corsages are forgotten, limos are late, a ring is dropped – the chicken is dry, someone gets drunk, people don’t show – whatever it is, it wont spoil your day if you focus on what really matters: by the end of the day, you will have celebrated a momentous event with the people you love the most.
3. Know yourself.
Are you cranky when you’re hungry? easily overwhelmed, tired or angered? Are you a crier? a confirmed introvert? Do crowds make you nervous? Do you sometimes drink too much? Don’t be surprised if you are just like yourself on your wedding day. Why would you be otherwise? Prepare accordingly. Bring tissue and a snack, but more importantly, approach the day mindfully so that you can bring your “best self” to the celebration. Think through the possible pitfalls and take wise, preemptive action.
4. Know your limits.
If there ever was a day for to enjoy yourself and have exactly what you want, this is the day! Plan the day around what you want and what you can do, and stick to that. Don’t let someone else hijack your day with their agenda, however well-intentioned. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” You can’t possibly make everyone happy, and you shouldn’t try.
5. Listen to your emotions.
Anxiety, tension, anger, impatience – these are probably unwelcome but nevertheless helpful signals from your body, advising you to make adjustments – adjustments that will help you maximize your enjoyment of the day. Keeping a positive attitude, staying centered in a peaceful place within [If you’re a person of faith, than simply rest in God.] – these and other practices will definitely make for a more memorable, beautiful, enjoyable wedding day.
6. Be present for your ceremony.
What you feel or experience during the ceremony determines what you’ll remember later. You know those brides who say, “I don’t remember my ceremony. I can’t even remember my wedding! It was a big blur.”? Those brides weren’t present for their own wedding. They were in attendance, but they didn’t experience it. When it comes to the ceremony, this means you should focus on what you’re saying to your partner and what your partner is saying to you (vows, ring exchange), and what you’re feeling during these parts (and other parts) of the ceremony. There may still be distractions during that time, and the adrenaline will be coursing through your body. You may have an “out of body” experience. You may temporarily develop “tunnel vision.” Deciding ahead of time to be mindful of your emotions will make sure you enjoy your ceremony and remember it later.
7. Be ready for your life to change.
Your wedding is a doorway through which you’ll pass from single life to married life. Even if you’ve been living together, and you think things aren’t going to change, think again. A transition like marriage brings with it lots of significant change. The relationship is legal now, and hopefully non-probationary, so even if you’ve been together a long time, that’s two differences. Officially, you have new relatives, new obligations, and probably new expectations. And someone else has new expectations for you. If you’ve been living on your own, with a roommate or with your parents, moving in with your new spouse is bound to be full of surprises – and some of them might be disturbing or confusing. That’s OK. That’s how this works. Just don’t be caught off guard. Don’t expect that your life after the wedding will be just a more fun version of your life before your wedding. You’re in the midst of a major life transition. Expect the unexpected – and remember than many have successfully navigated these waters before you. You’ll be fine. (I often remind couples during the ceremony with these words from a Country music song: “Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance.” If you call out to God for help, he will make himself known to you and he will help you.)
8. Remember it’s a day for love.
Don’t be a bridezilla. It’s you day, but it’s not your day to be inconsiderate, rude or to throw a tantrum. Take some time before you leave home to spend some time with God, asking for “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12f) These virtues apply every day, but especially on a wedding day. Save yourself some regret and maybe damage to your reputation. Let your inner beauty shine through. In the end, that’s what people will remember the most – including the groom!
9. Pay attention to how God might be coming to you on your big day.
Christian mystics remind us that we do well to “look” for God in each day, because he is certainly there. Often we miss him because we’re so distracted or hurried – or just because we have no expectation that he will “show up.” Try to approach your wedding day with a sense of expectant wonder about what God may want to do for you, show you, or communicate to you. Remember that wedding Jesus attended in Cana? Do you think that young couple expected Jesus to do a miracle at their wedding? To show up and save them from embarrassment? To make their wedding ten times as good as it would have been? No, they didn’t, but he did. On that day his “appearance” was dramatic, but it’s often much more subtle. Is God invited to your wedding as a guest? If so, then expect him, and look for him to show up. And remember, he will probably be in disguise. (You might want to particularly keep an eye on any children present, and the waitstaff.)
10. Embrace the joy.
This isn’t usually a problem at a wedding, but I write this for any “joy impaired” pilgrims like me. There is nothing spiritual about being a downer, in fact, quite to the contrary. Believe me, God wants you to be happy. He really does. Celebrate! Feast, drink, sing, shout, laugh, cry, make merry! Remember what Jesus did at that wedding in Cana? He was relaxed, compassionate and fun-loving. Shoot for that.
Postscript: In closing, I’d like to share a wedding story with you.
The wedding was being “… produced on an epic scale by an unhinged character known only as the Mother of the Bride (MOTB). The logistics–from an eighteen-piece brass-and-wind ensemble to gift registries spreading across most of the continental United States to twenty-four bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower-petal-throwers, and ringbearers–were of a scale usually seen only during the military invasion of a sizable country. But the plans were all working–until the climactic moment of the processional:
Ah, the bride. She had been dressed for hours if not days. No adrenaline was left in her body. Left alone with her father in the reception hall of the church while the march of the maidens went on and on, she had walked along the tables laden with gourmet goodies and absentmindedly sampled first the little pink and yellow and green mints. Then she picked through the silver bowls of mixed nuts and ate the pecans. Followed by a cheeseball or two, some black olives, a handful of glazed almonds, a little sausage with a frilly toothpic stick in it, a couple of shrimps blanketed in bacon, and a cracker piled with liver pate. To wash this down–a glass of pink champagne. Her father gave it to her. To calm her nerves.
What you noticed as the bride stood in the doorway was not her dress, but her face. White. For what was coming down the aisle was a living grenade with the pin pulled out.
The bride threw up.
Just as she walked by her mother.
And by ‘threw up,’ I don’t mean a polite little ladylike urp into her handkerchief. She puked. There’s just no nice word for it. I mean, she hosed the front of the chancel–hitting two bridesmaids, the groom, a ringbearer, and me. [Robert Fulgham] …
Only two people were seen smiling. One was the mother of the groom. And the other was the father of the bride.
Fulgham explains how they pulled themselves together for a much quieter, gentler ceremony in the reception hall. And how ‘everybody cried, as people are supposed to do at weddings, mostly because the groom held the bride in his arms through the whole ceremony. And no groom ever kissed a bride more tenderly than he.’ 
Think about it.
 John Ortberg in The Life You’ve Always Wanted, pp. 78f., quoting from Robert Fulghum’s story in It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, pp. 10-15.
Rev. William Britton officiates at about ninety weddings a year and has been doing so for the last ten years. Through Clergy On Call Ministries he cares for couples and families on their most special and difficult days (weddings, vow renewals, baby blessings and funerals).
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
“We Just Want a Quick Ceremony”
Next to “We don’t want anything special.”, this is my favorite comment from couples who call me looking for a wedding minister. I’m not sure what they mean, but it seems to mean “We don’t want to pay much.” I understand about the money, but I still have these questions:
“Do you want me to take the time to make sure I am properly groomed and dressed?” My wife and I attended a funeral where the priest didn’t do this, and it was very disappointing.
“Should I take the time to make sure I have accurate contact numbers for both of you and the venue, and that I have several versions of accurate driving directions?” (Sometimes even my GPS tries to lead me astray!)
“Do you want me to leave extra time to travel, in case traffic is bad or some other unexpected thing occurs?” (Usually I double the travel time to make sure I’m not late.)
“Are you saying it’s OK to come at the last minute?” Usually I arrive early in case you have any questions, or there are any problems with the DJ, readers, rings, license, candles, flower girls, microphone or the way the venue has set up for the ceremony.
“Will it be fine to meet you just before we begin?” And, keep in mind, I won’t really have time to converse with you, or to meet or speak to your parents, friends or family. To me this seems very impersonal.
“Can you guarantee that the ceremony will start right on time?” It’s really not “quick” if I have to wait twenty or thirty minutes for the ceremony to begin because there aren’t enough guests there yet, or because we’re waiting for DJ, the flowers, the chartered bus, your favorite aunt, the groom's father, or you to show up.
“Will it be OK if I leave right after the ceremony is over?” Please understand, this will mean I won’t be able to find you and congratulate you, or interact with your guests in any way. Hopefully they won’t see me rushing off and think “This was like a drive by.”
Finally, where is your ceremony?” If it’s on Shelter Island or on the Brooklyn Bridge or in the Bronx, then even though it may be “quick” for you, it will hardly be quick for me because of all the logistics. If you think for a moment about this from my perspective, you’ll see right away that a wedding that is two hours away and involves two bridge tolls and metro parking will cost more than one that is conveniently close to my starting location no matter how long the ceremony itself is.
I completely understand the way the money keeps flowing out of your hands as the wedding approaches! It’s expensive, that’s for sure, and I’m sympathetic. It wasn’t that long ago that I experienced that myself. But the ceremony sets the tone for the day. It’s at the heart of your entire celebration. When it’s bad, you’ll be trying to dig out of a hole for the next five hours. When it’s good, you’ve created a magical momentum that flows into the rest of the celebration. (To say nothing of the lasting memories.) That’s what I want for you, and why I bring this up.
Your wedding will be one of the most important days of your life, and it’s a most personal day. What I want to do with you is approach the planning of it in a most personal way. It may be “short and sweet” or not. It may be traditional or not. It may be religious or not. But hopefully we can agree that it shouldn’t suck. That seems like a good minimal goal. And for your ceremony not to suck, we’re going to have to invest some time in preparing for it and then in the execution of it.
So then, how much for a quick ceremony?
You tell me.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Gene Santini, lounge singer extraordinaire
I recently did a wedding where Gene Santini was singing at the cocktail hour. From the other room, I thought I heard Sinatra. If you go to his Myspace page and listen to "Wonderful World" or "Who Can I Turn To", you'll see how versatile he is. I found Gene to be vocally skilled, personable, and professional. I definitly, very highly recommend him to you for your wedding day!
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Tiffany's and Jeff's Wedding @ the Federal Building on Wall Street
Tiffany and Jeff and I had done a SKPE interview instead of a face-to-face meeting, since they were coming from Indiana. All their guests were also from the "mid-West" - Indiana and Wisconsin. Everyone loves Manhattan (well, almost), and this couple especially, and I suppose that explains their choice of the financial district (The Federal Building on Wall Street) for their wedding ceremony. It also explains why the "reception" afterwards was at a great NY pizza place. (In the evening, the couple, who are great music lovers, headed off to a concert, while their guests tried to fit in seeing as much of the city as they could.
As usual, New Yorkers were well behaved, interested in what was happening, and polite. (I'm serious!) Many were filming, and I'll still looking for the ceremony on YouTube. The weather cooperated, and this couple that I liked so much, and their family and friends were all enthusiastic about the ceremony we pulled off. I'm sure it was something a little different than what they're used to. Here's what the bride had to say:
"We were very pleased with you and your ceremony! It actually struck a cord for me personally because I sort of struggled w/ not "fulfilling my dreams" before I met Jeff..and when you mentioned that all your dreams may not come true, but it's God's will.. it really put that thought at ease. We loved the white water rafting analogy as well, so perfect. My family and Jeff's family thought you were great. We would recommend you to anyone.
"If there is any way I can help support you and what you do please let me know. I'd be happy to post anything on your website and please feel free to use our photos for your website. Thank you for making our day so special!"
(I did post almost 30 photos in the "Portfolio" section of this website, if you'd like to meet the couple for yourself. I want to thank Carlos Castillo for his professional and creative work at the wedding, and for providing these great shots. I hope we can work together soon, and I think we're going to work something out for my couples to get preferential treatment if they use his photographic services.)
Saturday, November 12, 2011
James' and Monica's Wedding at Wagner's Cove in Central Park
When James proposed to Monica, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared. Strangers down the beach from where they were clapped and celebrated with them. Well, that's the kind of spell that continued for their wedding, and the great luck they had on their big day - their Central Park wedding at Wagner Cove. The day was a beautiful Fall day, The musicians who I've praised elsewhere, were amazing, (I loved every one of their selections, and they're just an expert and personable duo.) and I can't wait to see the pictures that their photographer Sasha Felix took. She was omnipresent, very likeable and great to work with. (I recommended Sokol, the cellist, to James and Monica, and I know I'll be recommending Sasha too.) The guests navigated the hill down to our spot without incident - although I did catch the groom's mother once to prevent her from falling into the water! The relationship that James and Monica seem to have seemed very special and unique to me, and believe me, I meet a lot of couples. When they did the English/Spanish reading "Solo Tu" to each other, there wasn't a dry eye in the group. The way they were into each other made me at first want to be the bride (when he looked at her and spoke to her), and then I wanted to be the groom (when she responded). Very special, great, super-cool day in the Park! I'm posting a few other pictures in my "Wedding Portfolio" for now, with professinal ones to come later. Check that out to see for yourself what the venue and the musicians looked like - and the beautiful bride. (James, you looked good too.) P.S. the photo is of the bride and her father.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Wedding at Zuccotti Park (Two True Occupiers!)
It hasn't happened yet, as far as I know, but there's no reason why it shouldn't. Just think about it - no need to worry about catering, or the guest list - or even seating for that matter. And nobody drinking and then driving home to worry about. Music - already there. DJ with a sound system - you know why that's not needed! Oh, and did I mention, an abundance of Police protection at no cost? (Maybe even some distinguished guests will show up - Patti Smith, Pete Seeger, Mayor Bloomberg, etc. Maybe Radiohead will finally come to Occupy Wall Street - for your wedding.
So, anyway, I'm offering my officiating services to free for the first couple of True Occupiers that want to get married at Zuccotti Park (Occupy Wall Street). I know a lot of people are making strong connections, and cementing one's they had already, and that's what made me think of doing this. (I'd also be glad to officiate for you if you want to renew your vows at Liberty Park - the same place.)
You have to be sincere, and you have to be part of the 99%. True Occupiers will definitely be given preference. I can't cook for you, provide tents for those cold nights, or speak in the General Assembly (at least not yet), but I can certainly do for you (at no expense) what I do for other couples all the time (almost 100 times a year!). If you're interested in discussing this with me, please contact me.
I'm an seminary trained, ordained Christian minister who works (primarily) as a wedding officiant. You can easily contact me through my website www.clergyoncallministries.com. Pastor Bill Britton
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Maria's and Pascal's Wedding in Great Neck
When we met, Pascal was eager to tell me their story. Later I asked him to send it to me so I could share it with you: "Maria and I met in London in 1980 and dated for about eighteen months. At that time Spain was not part of the EU, so her visa expired, and she had to return to Madrid. I called her a few times there, but her mother answered the phone and never gave her the message, seeing how emotinoally spent Maria was ... she meant well. So Maria goes and gets married and has two great children, Bibiana and Daniel both now in their 20s. And I got married and had three of my own Lauren, Nastasia and Oliver (24, 17,11). No contact of any sort for 26 years. Out of the blue I get an emai in the summer of 2007 (one year after I got separated) saying "You probably don't remember me but....." I replied and we emailed back and forth for a few months, many times a day. I invented a need to go on a business trip to Spain and had her meet me for a weekend in Barcelona in September 2007. I opened the hotel room door and was in love again. Maria moved here in 2009 and we were married today at Steppingstone Park in Great Neck." The only thing that I can add to this great story is that Pascal only called me yesterday about doing this (!), and that weather forecast called for clouds and rain - but that the sun came out just as I pronounced them - and that was the ONLY time it came out. It was still a nice day, and the park is a beautiful place for this kind of wedding. I also was privileged to meet Pascal's mother Rosette, who was a very interesting person in her own right. A great day - the very kind of thing that makes me so glad I can do this "work."
Friday, September 30, 2011
Marlene's and Jean Claude's Wedding at Stewart Manor
When I met with Marline and Jean Claude, I learned that they are super-connected in the Haitian community and could either recommend me to many friends and associates, or not. I also learned that Jean Claude owns his own successful Entertainment company and has worked as a DJ. Even so, no pressure!
Stewart Manor was prepared for us, and attended to the the bridal party nicely, as they always do. We went over all the last minute details, and then everything came together in the beautiful ceremony room at the Manor - complete with a fire in the fireplace. (It was right behind where I was standing, and if I only could have turned turned around after the ceremomy to roast the other side, I would have been thoroughly cooked.) Here's what the couple had to say:
"First, we want to take this moment to thank you for the beautiful service that you gave us. You made our wedding day very special and very personal with all the attention to details you gave throughout the process. From the first phone call, to the get acquainted lunch meeting, the contract preparation, going over every details of the ceremony and finally to your superb delivery with a very personal touch, we can only say that you are the best.
We've only heard praises from our guests about our ceremony. Most of the guests are referring to our wedding as the wedding of the century. So we want to say again "Thank you." We will not hesitate 1 second to recommend your services to anyone."
May God bless you. Sincerely, Jean Claude and Rose Marline
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
New York Harpist for Weddings
Recently I did a wedding and bumped into Harpist Janet King again. Our paths cross periodically, since both of us serve at weddings. I remember the couple from that day emphasizing to me, "Yes, Janet King! She's the best!" Well, I'm hardly a judge of such things, but I can say that her playing is beautiful, and she is a reliable, friendly, professional person to work with. We stood around in the parking lot after talking about quite a number of things - but most interestingly, her "other hat" - running Big River Barn where you can rent horses for a beautiful ride through the woods (yes, in Nassau County!) in any season of the year. I wanted to drop everything and go and do it right then. Finally, Janet is also a New York state licensed massage therapist, specializing in working with people dealing with cancer. Her therapy helps to alleviate symptoms, helps cancer patients to feel good and to affirm life during challenging times." Bottom line, Janet is one cool person to know, and if thinking harps or horses, you really have to give her a call.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Jenny's and Julio's Wedding at Villa Russo in Richmond Hill
When I met Jenny and Julio, I knew it was going to be a special wedding. I find myself telling couples all the time that "Chemistry is what separates an average cermony from a special one.", and the more weddings I perform, the more I see how true this is. Well, in the case of this couple, we had really good chemistry from the beginning - lots of sharing, lots of laughs, lots of good communication about who they were and what they wanted. When time for the wedding came, the time we spent developing this chemistry paid off - in a beautiful, joy-filled, personal ceremony. Villa Russo's was warm and intimate, the DJ did a great job, and the guests were attentive and supportive - everything you could want. It was my honor and pleasure to be involved. Congratulations guys!
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Clergy on Call ministries was started by Reverend William Britton. Pastor Bill is an ordained minister (clergy) serving as a wedding officiant or wedding minister – helping couples to write their wedding vows and plan their wedding ceremony so that they have “no regrets” on their day of celebration - whether religious ceremonies or civil ceremonies. (Pastor Bill is also available if you’re renewing your marriage vows, or eloping or doing a destination wedding.) Pastor Bill serves couples planning a wedding in the Greater New York area including Long Island (Nassau County and Suffolk County), Queens, Brooklyn, New York City (Manhattan), and Westchester County. If you’re thinking of using a Judge for your wedding, or a Justice of the Peace – or if you’re thinking of going to city hall for your wedding – or perhaps you’re working on a last minute wedding plan –in any case, Pastor Bill would love to speak with you. (Pastor Bill is also available for families that have suffered the loss of a loved one and are planning a funeral.)