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.’ [1]

Think about it.

[1] 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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Clergy On Call "Baby Page"!

I've seen or heard from so many of my couples that have had children since their wedding, and as of a long time ago, I had this idea to do a "baby page." If I married you and you've added to your family - and if you'd like to add a photo of your new one to what promises to be a pretty big gallery here, please contact me and email me a photo. It's that simple. (And don't worry, I'll protect your privacy, as you can see from the page that's up already.)

And to all the new parents, congratulations! and I hope you're sleeping well. 

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!



Thursday, February 9, 2012

Harpist on Long Island Offers Discounts

Janet King is a well-known and respected harpist on Long Island and in the New York Metropolitan area. I'm glad to recommend her to you here, and she is happy to extend a 10% discount for my couples who found here here. Give her a call (516 671 4519) if you're looking for this kind of music for your wedding.  Harpist Janet King




Thursday, December 29, 2011

Big Band, Sextet, Quartet, etc. Discounts

I remember being very impressed with Jerry Costanzo and his musicians when we did a wedding together. He sings in the style of Sinatra, Nat Cole, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Michael Buble etc., and also works with DJs to do dinner shows during receptions. (He's one of only a few people that can really pull this off - see the artcle linked below.)  I asked him if he could give couples I'm marrying a discount, and he said yes:

Here are some typical packages for a 4 hour wedding reception. I'll offer a 15% discount and include solo piano/keyboard for cocktail hour, plus a light DJ service during band breaks. (These rates are for Long Island only.)

The Jerry Costanzo 17-piece Big Band Orchestra (5 sax, 4 trombone, 4 trumpet, piano, bass, drums, myself vocal) $10,000

The Jerry Costanzo 9-piece Orchestra (3 sax, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, drums, vocal) $5250

The Jerry Costanzo Sextet (sax, trumpet, piano or guitar, bass, drums, vocal) $3500

Quintet-(sax, piano or guitar, bass, drums, vocal) $3000

Quartet-(piano or guitar, bass, drums, vocal) $2500

(I don't receive any kind of fee from Jerry. My goal is just to provide you - the couples I'm marrying - with really quality vendors for your wedding.)


There are very few masters of music that can pull off the greatness of jazz swingers from the early years like Jerry Costanzo can. He is an absolute wonder with a beautiful voice that will transport you back into the era when big band jazz was all the rage.

He was brought up in a musically inclined Italian family in New York. He had many jobs, such as personal driver for Al Pacino, before realizing that music was his true career calling. He said that he knew that being a musician was what he was meant to do when he had pretty much failed at everything else. I say, that it’s a great thing because he is a pure musical genius and sings with such devotion and passion for the swing jazz style.

Times Square was able to have a great chat with him about his life, his music, and his upcoming show in New York.



Jerry Costanzo



Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sasha Felix Photography Discount Offer

I worked with Sasha only once so far, but I took an instant liking to her, and was very impressed with the way she interacted with the couple, the way she worked, and (later) with her portfolio. You can see her work from that day elsewhere on my website, and in my blog about the Central Park wedding we did together.

Here is the discount she’s making available to my couples:

My package: $2000 for 8 hours of shooting, a second shooter, DVD of high resolution images and online gallery. Discounted 20% and I can include a Engagement shoot. (I don't receive any kind of fee from her. My goal is just to provide you - the couples I'm marrying - with really quality vendors for your wedding.)

And here’s how she describes her passion and approach: "I have a passion for storytelling – may it be, weddings, engagements elopement ceremonies or lifestyle. I love to photograph people’s important moments in a creative, fun and timeless way. I put my heart into my work, and it has always felt like an immense privilege to be a part of such personal occasions.

"My background is in fine art and fashion photography. As an artist I am inspired by details, and I strive to make an image as unique as the people in it.

"I am available for travel worldwide. I am also available for editorial work."





Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Carlos Castillo Photography Discount Offer


I've written about Carlos Castillo photography elsewhere on this site, and some of the photos from the wedding we did together in Manhattan are also here. He offered to give a discount to couples that I'm marrying, and I wanted to make the details available for your consideration. Here they are:



... starts at $1,800 for 8 hours, 2 photographers, web gallery, and all high-resolution images on a DVD. We can offer a 15% discount and a free engagement photoshoot.



... includes a 2 hour package for $400 with a web gallery and high resolution images on a dvd. This is a discount of $100. off the usual price. (I don't receive any kind of fee from Carlos. My goal is just to provide you - the couples I'm marrying - with really quality vendors for your wedding.)



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Clairmont Strings Ensemble Discount

Years ago I did a wedding where Clairmont Strings and Ensembles provided the music. I think one of my former brides was one of the musicians. (Yep, small world.) Anyway, they were great, and recently I approached them to see if they would offer my couples a discount on their services. Vivian Penham got back to me to say that they would be happy to offer a 15% discount to my couples who contact them. (I'm not receiving a fee for this.) They don't have a website right now, so you'll have to check them out the old fashioned way - email - or if you really want to go retro, the telephone. (I don't receive any kind of fee from Vivian. My goal is just to provide you - the couples I'm marrying - with really quality vendors for your wedding.)

Musicians of The Claremont Strings Ensemble have performed collectively at Weill Hall, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and throughout the Northeast, playing a diverse range of symphonic and chamber music, eclectic jazz, and gypsy swing. Wadsworth Strings, emanating from the Washington Heights area, is a division of Claremont Strings, founded by Vivian Penham, a graduate of the Juilliard School and Columbia University.

Vivian Penham (Cello) A graduate of the Juilliard School and Columbia University, studies with Ardyth Alton and Lorne Munroe. Freelancing in the NY area, she plays with the New England Symphonic Ensemble, Scandia Symphony, and American Symphony. In addition, she is a Goethe Institute scholarship recipient. Other artistic activities include touring with The Mantovani Orchestra, Phantom of the Opera, and the Southwest Florida Symphony. In addition she is the founder of Claremont strings and ensemble, which has performed regionally presenting unique interpretations of old masters and Music in Urban spaces under the auspices of HAI.

Vivian Penham
Cellist and ensemble leader
Claremont strings and ensembles
Tel . 212 663-4373





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.

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Pastor Bill serves families 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.

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