Happily Ever After: can I ask you something?

Even when you’ve been together for what feels like forever, there’s always more to learn and know about each other.

Here’s a list of random ‘have you ever…?’ questions you can use as conversation starters, with your partner, friends, kids, neighbours – anyone you’re interested in learning more about.

Don’t use them all at once, but DO use them!

have you ever got your tongue stuck to something like a frozen flag pole? * have you ever been on a blind date? * have you ever sat on a roof top? * was there a time when didn’t take a shower for over a week? * have you ever played chicken? * have you ever been pushed into a pool with all your clothes on? * have you ever broken a bone? * have you ever been in trouble for giggling too much? * have you ever laughed so hard you cried? * have you ever cheated on a test? * did you ever call your teacher “Mum” by mistake? * have you ever passed out from drinking too much? * have you ever played an april’s fool joke on someone? * have you ever kissed anything not human? * have you ever choked on something that was not even food? * have you ever played an instrument do you ever drive over the speed limit? * have you ever cried over a haircut? * have you ever crashed a car? * do you ever dance in front of your mirror? * have you ever stolen anything? * have you ever been in a fist fight? * did you ever sneak out of your house? * have you ever had feelings for someone who didn’t have them back? * have you ever been arrested? * did you ever run away from home? * have you ever skipped work to do something more fun? * have you ever slept in a bed with someone not related to you by blood or marriage? * have you ever been on a train? * have you ever kissed the mirror? * have you ever made a snow angel? * do you sometimes cheat while playing a game? * have you ever been lonely? * have you ever fallen asleep at church? * have you ever felt an earthquake? * have you ever touched a snake? * did you ever drive through a red light? * were you ever suspended from school? * do you sometimes love the way you look? * have you ever been to court? * have you ever been really, truly lost? * have you ever been out of the country? * have you ever felt like dying from embarrassment? * have you ever cried yourself to sleep? * have you ever sang karaoke? * have you ever done something you told yourself you wouldn’t do? * did you ever get a toy or a lolly stuck up your nose? * have you ever caught a raindrop on your tongue? * do you ever sing in the shower? * have you ever talked on the phone for more than 2 hours? * have you ever thrown a plate or glass in anger? * have you ever wished you were someone else? * have you ever made your parents cry? * have you ever had a pet dog? * have you ever been in a band? * have you ever shot a gun? * have you ever fallen asleep at the computer? *  have you ever wondered what people would say at your funeral? *


Have fun!


Happily Ever After: Ask me about my partner

So you think you know each other pretty well, huh? You reckon?

Here’s a quick, fun quiz, to see just how much you really do know. You should each answer the questions separately, and then compare answers. Don’t be too focused on the ones you get wrong, except to use them as a prompt for conversation about what you each like and dislike.  After all, knowledge of cold facts isn’t enough to measure success in a relationship. [A stalker could know everything about you, but never touch your heart] Don’t get distracted by making a shopping list of preferences, likes and dislikes, but instead, make sure you are paying attention to your partner and keeping current with what drives them forward, or drives them crazy.

pencils ready?

1. If your partner is sitting in front of the TV, what’s most likely on the screen?
2. You’re out to eat; what kind of veg or salad do they order on the side?
3. What’s one food they don’t like?
4. You go out to have a drink. What do they order?
5. Where did your partner go to high school?
6. What size shoe do they wear?
7. If your partner were to collect anything, what would it be?
8. What is their favourite perfume/cologne?
9. What would your partner happily eat every day if they could?
10. What is their favourite cereal?
11. What would your partner never wear?
12. What is their favourite sports team(s)?
13. Which political party did they vote for?
14. Who is your partner’s best friend [not counting you]?
15. What is your partner’s favourite type of burger?
16. What is something you do that your partner wishes you wouldn’t do?
17.  What is their favourite brand of cosmetics/skin care?
18. You bake your partner’s favourite cake for their birthday; what kind is it?
19. Did they play sports in high school?
20. What could your partner happily spend hours doing?
21. What is one unique talent they have?
22. What is one thing you love about your partner?
23. What is their greatest strength?
24. What is the biggest challenge your partner is facing right now?
25. Write one word to describe your partner.

All the best for many years of ‘happily ever after’

Writing from the head AND the heart

20110628-103809.jpgTo my shame, I’m woefully behind on getting ceremony drafts finalized (or even started, to be honest). That’s partly the result of things being insanely busy and/or on bed rest, but mostly it’s because, at the front of the queue there have been a couple of ceremonies requiring more than usually careful attention to their content:
There’s a certain delicacy required in the way you approach the ‘giving away of the bride’ when you know her father is living with a terminal diagnosis, or the way you draft vows to last ‘forever’ for a couple who have lost their home and livelihood in the Christchurch earthquakes, or the greeting for the half of a gay couple who probably won’t have a single member of his family present during the ceremony.
Usually, I love this part of my job- smithing the traditional phrasings of ceremonies, reworking their form into something new and better suited for their purpose. I really enjoy the process of finding the right combination of words that make it possible for a couple to perfectly express their emotions to one another and their guests.
I often joke that if I can make the mother in law cry, I ‘win’, but that’s only when she’s crying happy tears. These ceremonies are something else all together.

On one level, I’m relishing the challenge. And on another level, my heart is breaking. In the middle of so much happiness and hope for the future lies a core of bitter sorrow that cannot, must not be ignored or swept aside. While giving it due acknowledgement in the ceremony, must not be allowed to dominate and overshadow the celebrations. There’s a line to walk, between celebration and sorrow, that must be navigated without dipping into triteness or becoming maudlin, and I really won’t know if I’ve truly succeeded until the day the words are spoken at the ceremony.
Which is a long way if saying, if you’re waiting on your draft, it’s coming, and I suspect that it will turn out to be a little gentler, a tad more thoughtful than it might otherwise have been. If you’ve just received your first draft, I hope I have captured the heart of your words, and walked softly enough not to bruise the tender parts.

More than usually, be kind to the people you care about! Grab the opportunities, say the words, love extravagantly, out loud and in full colour. So far as it depends on you, live happily, ever after, for every minute that you can.

How To Live Happily Ever After

Happy Valentine’s Day, bah humbug. It’s really foolish to measure the success of your relationship by the way you celebrate Valentine’s day, or even by how beautifully you plan your wedding. No matter how carefully chosen, flowers wilt, and chocolates turn into nothing more than a boxful of empty wrappers [though, okay, diamonds are pretty much  forever!].

I wonder if I’m such a Valentine’s Day grinch because I’ve seen so many putting all their energy into one or two elaborately planned days without making any real plans for the success of  “the rest of their lives”?

No matter how much [or little] you’ve already spent on each other this Valentine’s Day, we’re encouraging you to invest in the future of your relationship. To help with that, The Wedding Whisperer is offering 20 couples a comprehensive “Couple Check-Up” at the rock-bottom price of just $20 each! [details after the jump]

The Couple Check-Up is like a W.O.F. for your relationship – a checklist to keep you on the road to a successful relationship. It’s a way to recognise and celebrate your relationships strengths, as well as identify and resolve any problems before they become major issues.

Here’s why The Wedding Whisperer recommends The Couple Check-Up

It’s private: You access the Couple Check-Up from your own computer, so you don’t have to wait around an appointment, or hash out your relationship history to a total stranger. The Couple Check-Up is entirely self-managed, totally DIY unless you request the input of a facilitator, or decide you need the assistance of a professional counsellor.

It’s personal: Rather than offering a one-size-fits-all solution, the Couple Check-Up compares the answers you and your fiancé give, making the Couple Check-Up totally relevant to your relationship, taking into account factors such as how long you’ve been together, whether you have children, and so on.

It’s practical: The Couple Check-Up evaluates 20 core areas of your relationship such as, the way you handle conflict, gender roles and expectations, finances, in-laws, etc. Just answering the questionnaire will stimulate you to think more about your relationship. The results are available to you within minutes, and presented in an easy to understand format, with discussion questions to help you make your relationship even better.

It’s precise: What began as a pencil and paper inventory has now had more than 20 years of scientific research, testing and use. The Wedding Whisperer recommends using the Couple Check-Up on a yearly basis, creating an accurate snapshot of your relationship, making it easy to celebrate the growth of your relationship, and setting a pattern of open communication to last beyond your 50th wedding anniversary.

The fine print:

The Couple Check-Up is available at the price of $20 each [$40 / couple] to the first 20 couples who register with The Wedding Whisperer between 14 February 2011 – 14 March 2011. Couples may be dating, engaged, de-facto or already married. Upon registration and payment, couples will receive a link and a log-in code for the online Couple Check-Up.
Both partners must complete the online inventory process in order to receive their results.
Evaluations will be emailed to the address provided by the couple.
Payment can be made online or in store.

To register, or just find out more,  phone: 03 545 7531 / 021 027 04638, email: checkup@theweddingwhisperer.co.nz, or enquire in person at The Wedding Whisperer’s Corner Store, Waimea Road, Nelson

Before the Ball Drops on 2010

While you’re sitting around groaning in the aftermath of  seasonal excess – why not spend some time reviewing the year and planning for 2011 It’s kind of neat to sit down together to chat through some of these questions, even if you don’t formally worth though the list – I’m always surprised at what I don’t know about the people I spend so much time with!

Looking back – find your top five for 2010:

HIGHLIGHTS: 5 things you’re really proud of, or that stand out in your memory

REGRETS: 5 things  you wish you had done differently, or would wish to change

LESSONS: 5 things you learned from experience, or skills and knowledge you sought out

Looking forward, the top five for 2011:

FUN: 5 things you’d like to do, learn, attempt, just for the fun of it

CHALLENGE: 5 things you’d like to achieve

MONEY: 5 things you’d like to spend some money on or save towards

PERSONAL: 5 personal traits or habits you’d like to work on

‘Till Death Do You Part

Last week, an elderly couple of my acquaintance died within hours of each other, after 60 years of marriage, which got me thinking about the phrase “’till death do us part”

No matter how non-traditional the ceremony,  it’s surprising how often the vows end up including some version of the words “for as long as you both shall live”.  It’s a high ideal, and a huge committment – after all, no-one can see into the future, and who knows what form the years of  “for better or worse, for richer or poorer” will take. And yet, those words are carefully and deliberately still being included in 99% of the ceremonies I attend.

When I give couples the first draft of their ceremony, I’ll often include some totally nonsense vows in the space where they will ultimately insert their own vows, and even when I’m at my most irreverent, the concept pops up [usually in the vulgar form, as in  “…until one of us is dead :p “].

I wonder if it’s not so much “I’ll love you until I die” as “I can’t imagine not having you in my life”.

I recently overheard an elderly couple arguing good-naturedly about it – she was insisting that she should die first, so she wouldn’t be left alone. He was trying to convince her that was a terrible idea, because he always burned the dinner, so without her, he’d die of starvation. Her response? “Perfect, then we won’t be apart for long!”

Would that all marriages could be so long, so happy, and so united.  Of course, it’s never that easy – life gets in the way of our best intentions. It’s so rare for a couple to live and die in such close tandem that Syd and Marion’s deaths made the front page of the newspaper.

Whether it’s a spouse, or a parent, or a child, whether you promised to or not, you love them until death parts you, and beyond. It’s less  a case of “for as long as we both shall live”  and more like  “for as long as I live, I will keep on loving you”

Perhaps that’s why one of my favourite pieces of symbolism is an informal sand ceremony, where the couple stoop down and pick up a handful of ordinary sand from the beach where they are standing, walk to the water’s edge and together pour the sand into the waves. There’s a real sense of surrender about it, an awareness that the future is huge and uncertain, but choosing to take the risk of loving each other anyway.

It’s a tired old cliché, but still true that love doesn’t make the world go around, it’s what makes the journey worthwhile. So travel with your whole heart!













Sirens blaring means ‘help is on the way’

[shudder] I’m sitting here watching a parade of ambulances and other emergency appliances racing past with lights and sirens blasting. Whatever sparked this call out, it can’t be good.

Until recently, this kind of scenario had the potential to pull me into a mild panic, which is kind of silly when you consider that the crisis most likely began 20 minutes or more ago, and what I’m seeing is in fact the beginning of the solution.I’m grateful to a friend who re-languaged it for me – “the sirens mean that help is on the way”.

I wonder if we sometimes have this kind of disconnect over the idea of relationship counselling. If I’m totally honest, my knee jerk response a couple seeking counselling would almost certainly be along the lines of  ‘oh, is it that bad?’

I know of a handful of couples who have had or are having marriage mentoring, or professional counselling, and I could probably write a list of couples whose relationships would benefit from the same,[ including my own], but I’ve never even heard of anyone who has said ‘things are going okay, let’s get some professional help to make it even better!’

One of the few ‘socially acceptable’ times a couple may get relationship counselling is in the lead-up to their wedding, often included as part of the Celebrant’s fee, but in my experience, most couples will avoid dong it, if they possibly can.

Why is that, I wonder? Why do I struggle to admit that I sometimes need outside help, as if that would some how mean that things weren’t going well, when the truth is that, just like hearing sirens in the distance, what it really means is that help is getting closer.

What could we achieve if we removed the stigma from seeking help for our relationships?What would our families and communities be like if, instead of viewing relationship counselling as an admission of failure, it became more like routine maintenance? How much better could our marriages be if, instead of waiting for a crisis to hit, couples were proactive about getting good tools into their relationship toolbelts?  That’s not going to happen anytime soon if we keep viewing relationship counselling as something that’s “only for relationships that are in trouble”.

Relationship counselling works. It must do, otherwise why would we have government-funded counselling options? Marriage mentoring can offer a fantastic relationship roadmap.  Educating yourself and your spouse so that you communicate clearly is an excellent investment of your time, money and enthusiasm.

So, to start the ball rolling, how about this: If you were offered pre-marital counselling, but have been putting it off, don’t! If you’re serious about spending the rest of your lives happily married to one another, grab every opportunity you get to improve your relationship. I’m sure that not all of what you’re offered will be life-changing, but even if you learn one new thing, I think it will have been worth it.

And, if it’s too long ago, or if you were never even offered pre-marital counselling in the first place – go seek some out! I’ve known The Mister for more than 20 years, and I’m still learning new things about what makes him tick, what makes our relationship stronger, and what threatens it.

If you don’t have any other options, head down to your local library and see what’s on the shelves. I can really recommend learning about love languages, personality differences, learning styles, etc, just for starters. [And you know you can always drop me an email for more ideas, inspiration and information! ]

As a society, we change our thinking all the time. Once upon a time an unwed mother was a terrible scandal. Once upon a time, staying in a violent marriage was the right thing to do. I wonder how long will it be until working on your relationship moves from the unthinkable to the unremarkable?

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