Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lori and Sam's Wedding at Peppercorns

On November 1st Lori and Sam tied the knot at Peppercorns Restaurant in Hicksville. I was pleased to discover this place, because it’s very nice for a smaller group, and more intimate venues for receptions are hard to find. The ceremony room upstairs was attractive and decorated more nicely than many bigger wedding halls I’ve been to. I stayed for the cocktail hour and the service and food were great. The event coordinator Lynda Brolin was attentive to all the details. I also met the DJs, Patty and Jimmy from Mobile Music Masters. They handled themselves and and the music-related issues in a professional manner, and I found them likable and easy to work with. When it came time for the ceremony, Lori was a little nervous, but Sam was a steadying influence, and they were definitely “in the moment” during their ceremony. Both they and their guests were a delight. Her dress was beautiful, and the photographer promised me photos - which I’ll post here as an update later. All in all, it was the kind of wedding I like to do - working with professionals, bringing joy to a great crowd - and a couple that is doing their part thoughtfully and beautifully. Lori and Sam, as I said to you during the ceremony, “May the happiness you’ve found together be yours throughout a lifetime of love.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Joyous Weddings

It’s not at all unusual in the New York metropolitan area to spend forty thousand dollars on a wedding. Why do  so many of us incur such an expense?  After all, it’s possible to elope or do do something small and personal in Central Park or at the beach - and these are definitely nice options - and obviously less expensive. So why isn’t that the typical thing?
    I think the answer is found in one of the greetings to the guests I often use at the start of a wedding:  “In these times the couple calls upon their friends and family to share their joy – for to celebrate alone would only diminish the joy of the day.” The idea is a Biblically based one, one clearly seen in the idea of “praise” in the Psalms of Israel. When we “praise” God, our joy in him is increased - it’s greater than if we just sat around alone at home thinking about him and saying nice things.
    Everyone already instinctively knows this. Watching the game is more pleasurable with others. Celebrating is too. When your team wins, you want to text a friend - “Did you see the game? Did you see that catch? Can you believe they made the playoffs?”, etc.  When you lose weight, or close a deal, or meet someone special, the first thing you want to do is tell someone else! And in the telling, your joy increases even more. Shared joy is multiplied.
    So, back to weddings. To celebrate with family and friends definitely makes the day more special. We want them to see the beautiful bride, to hear our vows, to see our first dance, to enjoy the great music we picked out, and to share with us the delicious cake.
    This is bad news for the pocketbook, but good for the wedding industry. It’s pretty good consolation also. So, next time you’re stressing over how much this ever-so brief event is going to cost you, just remember this - it’s all about maximizing the joy.  (The picture above is of my four sons, and my brother and best man at my Long Island wedding. We’re all just feeling the joy.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wedding Officiant Becomes a Groom

On July 19th, I switched places - from wedding officiant to groom! Suddenly I had to take some of my own advice about keeping calm and staying in the moment. And a few things went wrong too. When the flowers arrived, no one was there to accept them. My bride got a very noticeable lip stick smear on the front of her dress just before leaving home for the ceremony. At the church, I immediately misplaced the bag with the license, a lot of cash and gift cards, and our copies of the vows we were to say to each other. At the restaurant the air conditioning wasn't working in one area, and we got fed after most of our guests. There’s more, but you get the idea. Not everything went exactly like we had planned. (“White water” already!)
    On the other hand, both we and our guests loved the ceremony (We found the vows!), and two friends did a beautiful hymn they learned just for us. Another dear friend actually made us our three-tier chocolate cake – the best wedding cake I’ve ever had, and my new wife and I actually pulled off the “dancing with the stars” dance routine we practiced so hard. (You have to understand, I really don’t dance.) Several people have said since, that it was the best wedding they ever attended, and as for us, we had a blast. Others had told me that all the stress would melt away once the ceremony was over, and I can testify that it really works that way.
    Now it’s almost three months later, and I would like to recommend marriage to those considering it. It’s definitely not something to rush into “unadvisedly or lightly”, but when the right person and the right time come along, it’s ... nice.
    I’d like to give thanks to God, for his grace in it all, for our great friends, who celebrated so joyously with us and helped us in so many ways, for our family members who supported us and assisted us, for our many vendors (who will be blogged about more later) and for Pastor Tom Carpino, our friend and super special wedding officiant.
    So, do I know what you’re going through for your Long Island or New York City wedding? Probably more than you think. I hope that knowledge will make me an even better wedding officiant myself – your very own super special wedding officiant!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wondering About the True Meaning Of Love? – Read this.

A few times I’ve had brides joke when it came to the wedding vows, “for richer or ... for richer.”  Ha ha. Except it didn’t seem funny. As I thought about it more later, I realized that it’s not only the “poorer” that at some point will come upon every couple that stays together, but each of the other opposites – not only “better” but also “worse”, not only health, but also “sickness” – even death. All these things are the legacy of a couple that stays together “until death shall part” them. Many of us fail to keep these forever vows, but we never renounce their importance and value. If we plan to marry again, what we promise then will probably be about the same. An introspective person might at times wonder, “Do I really know what love is?”, “Can I live the kind of love called for in marriage?” It’s really the opposite end of the feeling/thinking scale from the starry-eyed couple that has never had a fight and knows they will always be best friends. Weddings should cause us to look within. Making a life-long pledge to someone ought to create some healthy introspection. It’s naive to think that we really understand our intented spouse, ourselves, what the world might throw at us - or what is required by real love. Are you wondering what true love is? Read this article, "When Wounded Vets Come Home" and see it in flesh and blood. This is the kind of love that the Apostle Paul says, “never fails.” It's so difficult. No wonder it's also so rare. (The photograph is by Erika Larsen/Redux.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Prayer for Families

"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families. We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. ... Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents, and so rekindle forever charity amoung us all, that we may everymore be kindly affectioned to one another, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen." These words from the Book of Common Prayer take us back to another day, not only because we don’t say “affectioned” anymore, but with their sentiments. In a world where the behavior of children in the family mimics television characters as much as anything (Bart Simpson, the boys from South Park - even Zack and Cody with their suite life), and where adults have long ago given up on real leadership in the home in many ways - again often resembling T.V. (Three and a Half Men, Still Standing) we have, child and parent alike, become accustomed to home life at a level that in our more lucid moments we may be willing to admit is disappointing - and not helpful to its members. It’s in this context that I like the words of this ancient prayer. Like the famous prayer of Jesus (“Our Father...”) or the great confession of David in the Psalms (Psalm 23), these words can be savored and mulled over - and prayed every day with profit. They can remind us of a higher life, and kindle in us higher aspirations. Look around. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Hottest Sex Tip Ever

You can tell at the wedding rehearsal. The woman has been dreaming of her wedding, and planning out everything since she was ten years old. The guy still really isn't that into the details.  His attitude is usually, "Whatever you want is fine with me babe." The woman sees the wedding ceremony as the beginning - of life together, the start of family, etc. The guy may see this as the end, at least in some senses - of freedom, of multiple partners, etc. (Obviously, these are stereotypes, but admit it, they're often true.) It's in this context that the Men's Health article. “The Hottest Sex Tip Ever” chimes in – encouraging men to think of the chapel ceremony as a door to the best there is: “Your lifetime of great sex starts when you stroll the aisle.” The magazine gives mixed messages at times, but often something appears filled with real maturity and wisdom. This is one of those. Check it out men. It’s what your father would tell you if he were really wise.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Keeping Things in Perspective

Every year I perform close to one hundred weddings either on Long Island or in New York City, so by now I've learned, if I didn't already know, that many things can go wrong at a wedding. Some within our control – some definitely not. An earthquake isn't what anyone expects. One minute your biggest concern are sore feet, and the next minute you're just hoping everyone has survived – and wondering if maybe you'll still be married at all on your day - or anytime soon. Near the Chinese town of Bailu, several couples we're marrying when the earthquake on May 12 occurred. Hopefully just this one photo from that day is enough to help us keep things in perspective when it comes to our weddings. The Photo is by Wang Qiang (The Associated Press)


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kimberly and Tim's Wedding at Land's End

Kimberly and Tim got married last week at Land’s End in Sayville on Long Island. This beautiful location has always been one of my favorites, so this time out I was looking around and asking myself, “What is so special about this place?” I think I can illustrate it better than trying to explain. I looked at the tasteful mirror treatments in this great room with a  bar and a fireplace, and there wasn’t a single smudge on it. Later I watched one of the staff meticulously create symmetrical folds in the table covering for every table. Yes, the ambiance is warm and intimate, and the views of the water make a beautiful backdrop, but what impressed me most was the attention to detail - the excellence. It’s this kind of work that explains the difference in cost from one place to another. I don’t even know what the couple spent, but I know there were cheaper options. Why not choose one of those options? It’s about the views, the food, the wood paneling - but best of all, it’s about knowing that every detail has been thoughtfully given attention. May their tribe increase!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Raquel and Josh’s Wedding @ The West Side Loft in Manhattan

It seems like a million different places exist in Manhattan to tie the knot, and more venues are opening up every day. Sometimes it’s a rooftop, sometimes a space in a restaurant, and sometimes a loft. In to this case, the Manhattan crowd didn’t have to travel far to join the festivities. The “West Side Loft” at 336 West 37th street was decorated beautifully - as the photographs by Mel Barlow show so nicely. The wedding planners, Mayra Castillo and Xochitl Gonzalez of Always a BridesMaid, attended to the couples’ every need, and the wedding party relaxed and looked beautiful - especially the bride. When it came time for the ceremony, the several hundred guests were quiet and attentive - with only a few tears from the mothers to mark the moment. Raquel and Josh, thanks for including me in your day. From the moment we starting talking on the phone - in between your ski trips and other adventures, I knew it would be a nice connection.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ouch, that hurts! (on criticism)

I know if you know me, it may be hard for you to believe that I've been criticized! I bet though, that as great as you are, and as hard as you try, you've been criticized too. Over the years, I've gathered some thoughts I find helpful.

Dr. Robert Cook gently reminded us not to fight it, but to learn from criticism. Even to love our critics. He encouraged us to keep doing what we know we should, and to give God time to deal with our critics himself. (I don’t have to get even or defend myself to them.) Even his patented advice applies well, "Walk with the King today, and be a blessing.")

If you try to do anything at all in life of any significance, you will be criticized. Expect it. Everyone else who does anything important gets it too, not just you. Read the biographies of some great men - it doesn’t matter which ones, and you’ll see.

Pastor Chuck Swindoll warns that we'll never survive in ministry if we can't learn to receive and to ignore criticism. Most of us have probably seen people give up on something important because they couldn't handle criticism.

God above, and daily life here below, conspire together to take off our rough edges. You and I will be better for it.  I'm sure this is like what Joe Bayly meant when he said, "Criticism is the manure that makes the plants of the Lord grow strong." Being married has an advantage at this point, because, if you're lucky, you're spouse will point out things to you that you need to know - but that no one else cares enough to tell you. ("You can't wear those shoes with that!", "You need a different deodorant.")

It’s also important to consider the critic. Does he love you and have your back, or is she just a chronic PITA? Why pay any attention to someone who isn’t committed to you?

Abraham Lincoln’s remark that, "He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help." is also worth remembering. Lincoln knew something about being the target of criticism.

Finally, we also need to watch that we don't become grumblers and complainers ourselves.

The Bible says that "God hates ... the man who stirs up dissension among brethren", and the Apostle James writes that a man's religion is worthless unless he keeps "a tight rein on his tongue". (James 1:26) The Apostle John reminds us that "anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1 John 4)

As you may know, some of us are pacifiers and some are blamers. Obviously, both approaches fall short - but ask yourself, "Am I a blamer?" No ... really, ask yourself. If it’s a pattern or M.O., then that’s significant.

As for me, I tend to become defensive very easily when criticized. I guess that's why this topic appeals to me - and I’ve had my share of criticism. I hope I'm becoming wiser. I remind myself to look for the truth in it, to look for the love. I try to refuse to defend myself. I can leave it in God’s hands. I also remind myself that the truth is probably harder to take than the lies of any critic. I know my heart - and my life. A little criticism is certainly merited - to say the least. Remembering this helps me dial my response down a notch.

Well, I’m done. I hope you won’t think that this was too negative, too predictable, too shallow, too secular, too long, or poorly written. Instead, I hope, like me, you’ll be able to benefit and grow through loving criticism - that you won’t let it make you quit, that you won’t become a sourpuss, and perhaps most of all, that you’ll determine not to be a critic yourself.

Here’s to being there for each other and building each other up!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Bring on the Passion

As soon as I read it, I knew it was true: "People experience success based on what they do or fair to do."  The thing is, I realize my tendancy not to think this way. I give too much weight to circumstances or to what I think are my intrinsic limitations - but I don't automatically take a good, hard look at myself as the biggest determining factor in success.  So, I have this quotation on the bulletin board in front of me as I work. It's the daily reminder that I need. Along these lines, I just read a helpful article by Max Kalehoff – entitled Why Passion Matters. He doesn't ease into his topic: "In a hyper-competitive market, competence is expected and only flawless execution is tolerable. But that’s no longer enough. Today, the ultimate competitive advantage is passion." I recommend this article to all my officiant friends who, like me, are working to constantly "step up their game."

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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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