You Learn Something New, Every Day

After a dozen years, averaging  30 ceremonies a year, what’s that, then? 350 or more weddings? You’d think by now I’d have been there, done that, worn out the T-shirt.

But already this season, I’ve had some totally new wedding-related experiences: F’rinstance, I got a groom’s name wrong, for the first time, ever. [Only for a second, and not in any of the legally binding bits!]  And, I officiated over a double wedding ceremony [that’s where I got a one of the groom’s names mixed up with the other. Blush]. I saw a bride and her father drive their car, right up the aisle to the altar [and used the bonnet of the car as our signing table]. Let’s see, what else? Oh, I was unforgivably late to a rehearsal, the latest I’ve ever been, [there’s an interesting, though not very believable excuse filled with ninjas and fire-breathing dragons, but no better reason than that I failed to allow enough time to get there]. And I was embarrassingly early to the ceremony, the next day!

And, the thing that I totally wasn’t expecting: even after all those hundreds of beautifully crafted, carefully honed vows and I do’s and promises, just the other day, I was blindsided by a couple’s [secret squirrel surprise] vows totally taking my breath away.

I asked politely after the ceremony, and they said I could share them here.

So, here are the wedding vows I wish I had written:

The groom said:
You are my best beloved, and my best friend.
Somehow, in spite of some spectacular lapses in judgment,
and thanks to some astonishingly good luck,
I find myself standing here, beside you, on our wedding day.
Pinch me, I can’t believe it’s real.

I promise to care for you, to celebrate with you,
and to work beside you to build a life together
better than we could have imagined having by ourselves.
And so, I give you this ring, to remind you every day of my promise
that in all conditions, under every circumstance,
I am always on your team, as long as I live.
Finding you is the best thing that I have ever done,
until this very moment,
when becoming your husband will take that honour.

And when she could speak, the bride said back:

You are MY best beloved and MY best friend, too.  Jinx!
With this ring, I give you my promise
to be by your side and ON your side from here on out.
I promise to honour you, and to BE honourable,
to listen as you trust me with your thoughts, your fears, and your dreams;
To see you as the extraordinary person that you are,
even when you don’t believe it.
And to love you deeply and honestly.
You heart moves mine,
your mind challenges and inspires me,
your humour delights me,
and your hands are the ones I wish to hold mine,
until the end of my days.

I gladly make these promises to you,
and I am proud to become your wife.

Sweet, no? Maybe it’s just that so often, by the time I hear the couple actually saying the words to each other, we’ve been over and over them, tweaking and fine tuning – this was the first time in a while that I got to hear a set fresh out of  the box.

I’m kind of surprised that there’s been so much to blog about this season’s weddings, when it’s still only the middle of November. Even after all this time, there’s still so much more to learn, discover, and experience – I love it!



The Naughty Corner: Bad Behaviour at Weddings

Phew! It’s been a ‘fun’ couple of weeks!
I often joke that there’s not much I haven’t seen when it comes to weddings; this month, I’ve added a few new things to my list.

Here is summer 2011’s list of things you shouldn’t have to tell a wedding guest:

Dear Wedding Guests,
The bride’s attire should be the most eye-catching outfit in the room. It’s currently trendy to wear a surprising hat. Okay. I’m not so sure that a surprising dress is a good choice, though.
I’m all for sassy fashion and expressing your personality through what you wear, but I have seen oh, so many outfits that make me wonder what the wearer was thinking when they chose their clothing. For starters, it should go without saying that it’s never a good idea to wear a long white dress to a wedding, if you’re not actually the bride.
Please take the venue into consideration. Clothing that’s suitable for a beach wedding is probably not appropriate for a church wedding. And vice versa.
Your attire doesn’t have to be new, but it should definitely be clean. The same goes for your shoes, and your hair and nails – it looks disrespectful when you don’t take the time to scrub up for an event that will have been months in the planning.

As a general guideline, if you can’t sit down and relax in what you’ve chosen to wear, it’s perhaps a little short or tight to wear to a wedding. It’s silly to set yourself up to be made miserable and  distracted by an uncomfortable or unsuitable clothing choice.

Dear Wedding Guests,
While it’s true that no-one can be excluded from attending a wedding ceremony, priority should always be given to invited guests. If for some reason you decide to attend a ceremony to which you were not invited, in a venue where seating is limited,you should wait until all the invited guests are seated before you seat yourself.
The reception / wedding breakfast is for invited guests only. It will have been catered and set for the number of guests who have RSVPed. If you were not invited, or if you were invited, but did not RSVP, then, too bad. There’s bound to be a McDonald’s still open somewhere nearby.

While I’m on the topic: Just because there will be plenty of ‘free’ food and booze isn’t a reason to consume as much as you possibly can. By all means, eat, drink, make merry, but don’t be ‘that guest’.
No-one wants to step over, uh, pre-warmed leftovers on the way back to their cars at the end of the evening.

Dear Wedding Guests,
Just because someone sends you an invitation, you don’t have to attend. If you don’t approve of the wedding, or have some feud with the couple’s family, or you just generally don’t have a nice thing to say about anyone or anything, please feel free to stay at home. That’s what the RSVP card is for – you can choose not to attend. I’ve seen far too many ‘side eye’ looks flitting among guests. I’ve heard far too many snide comments about the quality of the wine, the tackiness of the decor, or the dismal outlook predicted for the couple.
Come on, people, it’s a celebration.
Please stay away if you can’t at least convincingly fake being happy for the newlyweds.

Dear Wedding Guests,
Don’t forget to put some manners in your pocket with your hanky. It costs nothing to be polite, and only a little effort to be friendly to people you have not met before. Some of those people are now related to you by marriage. A little good behaviour and courtesy will stand you in good stead for the many family gatherings to come.

The same goes for your interactions with wait staff, and others who are working the wedding. There’s seldom any reason to yell at or physically handle any person who is being paid to [among other things] make your day go well. You will expect them to be polite to you, why not return the courtesy? A shift of tone will change a demand into a request, the addition of a please, or thankyou will cost you nothing, but might get you even better service.

And finally [ I hope!] Dear Wedding Guests,
It was the cutest wedding, wasn’t it? And didn’t you get some great candid photos? Yay you! But before you go posting any of those photos onto Facebook or G+, you should check that the bride and groom won’t mind – everyone THEY wanted to share their day with was invited to the wedding, so they may quite rightly wish to keep the images from the day private to that group of people.
In addition, the couple will almost certainly have paid a chunk of cash to have their wedding professionally photographed. Would they really want lo-res snapshots to be the first images shown to the rest of the world?
We’ve all seen bad-taste/wedding disaster photos that have gone viral.
It’s not what a friend would do. Well, not what a GOOD friend would do….

Long story short: You’ve been invited to the wedding because the bride and groom, and their families, value the relationship they share with you. You’re someone special to them, and they want to share their celebrations with you.
So go on, celebrate with them. Have fun, and please, be a good guest!

Twenty Years From Now…

Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now. you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the things that you did.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the Trade Winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”

Twenty years ago today, I walked down the aisle and into married life. Far from ‘throwing off the bowlines and sailing away from the safe harbour’, our marriage has been an incredible safe haven – the home port from which I have been able to confidently face the next adventure, and to which I have gladly returned at the end of the day.

As the days have turned into years, it’s started to feel as if those years have turned back into days – I don’t know how we squeezed all those experiences into less than a month, but sometimes, that’s about how long it seems to have been.

A lot has happened in twenty years. As a f’rinstance, take another look at the photo for this post. That’s 1GB of 1990s technology storage – massive compared to the terabytes we carry around today. I’ve been married since before the world-wide web existed, longer than 50% of YouTube users have been alive, since the days when Prince Charles was still married to Diana, before Whoopie Goldberg hammed it up in Sister Act, before Boris Yeltsin was a household name, back when Mount Pinatubo erupted. WAAAAY back in the day.

Suddenly I’m feeling like I ought to be feeling old.

No-one is more surprised than I, to discover we’re so far down the track and still happily married. It’s not been an easy route – [you know me, I always want to know what might be up that other path, and in the past twenty years, we’ve travelled most of them] – it’s been better. It’s been worse. We’ve been comfortably off, and we’ve been totally, hopelessly broke. So far we’ve survived Norovirus, Crohn’s disease, infertility, parenthood, pets, prangs, and pranks.

There’s no magic formula, though. It’s not like we can map out a schedule, and say ‘do this, then that, and you’ll be fine’. I can recommend for you a large assortment of things you shouldn’t do, or say. There have been times when we’ve each said things we’ve lived to regret, days when the only reason to go home at the end of the day is because all our stuff was there. We’ve battled through seemingly irreconcilable differences, and come through that to be on the same side against some pretty insurmountable odds.

And, so far so good, we have both managed to love and to cherish each other, to remember that we chose and committed to this relationship, and ultimately, the only ‘trick’ is that each of us has come back around to choosing it again, and again, time after time after time.

And there’s the uncomfortable truth. In the same way that it doesn’t matter how shiny and perfect one face of a coin is if the other side is missing, it doesn’t much matter how hard one side of a couple works at the relationship, if the other side is missing, or fake. As awesome as I am [and so, so modest!] I have to acknowledge that a significant part of the success of my marriage belongs to the guy I happened to marry.

I’m looking forward to sharing the for richer, for better with him, and content that if there must be a for poorer, or worse, a death that inevitably parts us, [hopefully many, many for than another 20 years away], I won’t mind so much, if I can do it with that guy by my side.

Twenty years from now….

Breaking Out The Bubbly

I have had so much fun this week, thanks to The Wedding Kit loaning me their bubble machine!
We set the machine up in the entryway of The Corner Store, and ‘commenced to blowing’:
instant clouds of iridescence wafting along the street, [which was fun straight out of the box] but what’s been the most delightful has been the reactions of people passing by.

So far, no-one’s said “bah humbug”.  Apart from one run-away buggy [with baby still inside, and caught just in time!] the bubbles haven’t caused any accidents.
So far.
If anything, it seems like the streams of bubbles occasionally wandering out across the road have caused people to drive a little slower around our horrible corner. Though, I do wonder if I should write a letter of apology to the teachers unlucky enough to attempt crocodile filing  three classes of 8 year olds past my door yesterday.

Men in suits, the Postie, pretty much anyone who had passed by has at the very least smiled, if not dawdled for a while. Small children have predictably erupted into paroxysms of  bubble-glee, thanks to passing parents who parked their car, unstrapped the baby, and walked them over to play!

I haven’t gotten much work done. Without a word of a lie, since I started writing this blog post this morning, I’ve been distracted by a pit bull terrier leaping [all four feet off the ground] to catch bubbles, a classic ’emo-goth-wannabe’ utterly ruining his sad mood, and three tough dudes in black leathers almost choking to death  laughing and trying to catch bubbles in thier mouths.

But the absolute best reactions? All this week, it’s the school boys who have surprised and delighted me. I’ve kind of assumed that teen-aged boys were far too cool to expect any reaction at all to the bubbles – if I’d had to predict, I’d have said a big boy would kick the machine over and run away – turns out, I am totally wrong on that:

So, for your Friday afternoon enjoyement, I give you: What young men [because,  these have all been seniors!] do when surprised by bubbles:

Let’s begin with the group of lads playing a scratch game of “footy with bubbles”, shouting “Gooooaaaalllll!” and running off, shirts over their heads like Pele.

Add one very sharp-looking chap, totally lost in thought as bubbles swirled around him, and his less dapper counterpart, later in the day – similarly entranced. Overlay a soundtrack to the effect of “Duuuude. Wait. What?” and try not to giggle too loudly. I’m not certain, but I think he was trying to catch some to put in his pockets for later…

I’ve seen otherwise unperturbably cool dudes,  breaking into dance, or sitting on the kerb laughing, running off to find a mate to drag him back for show and tell – I haven’t laughed this much in months!

My favourite schoolboy quip so far:  “See, if you don’t wag, you miss this stuff”

I’m going to just say it: Nelson College Schoolboys are awesome. I love that they still have that sense of childlike wonder, and are not afraid to show it, even among their peers. It’s been such fun to hear the surprise and delight of passers-by, and to discover that whether one is have been 3 or 63, apparenlty you’re never too old to play in the bubbles.

If you have a moment and you’re in the neighbourhood, come over and play! [Or if your inner child is old and curmudgeonly, you could curl up on the couch and people watch]

A quick shoutout to the guy who started the party – You can hire one of these magic-making machines for just $50 /day from The Wedding Kit – You don’t even need a special occasion – just start the bubbles, and the party will come to you!

The Wedding Kit: Affordable Equpment Hire for weddings, events, and ordinary days!

Close your eyes and make a wish…

Today, the seventh day of the seventh month,  is the Star Festival [Tanabata] which, according to legend is when the two stars Altair and Vega  get to meet, once each year. [These two stars are usually separated by the milky way. ]

There are a variety of legends around this lunar phenomenon, but the most popular one goes something like this:

The daughter of the Sky King  would sit weaving by the river in the sky we know as the Milky Way. She worked so hard at her weaving, she didn’t get any opportunity to meet someone to fall in love with. Her father arranged for her to meet a stellar young man, The Herder of Stars, who lived on the other side of the river. He chose well, and the two young people quickly fell in love, and married.  So far so good.

The problem was that the couple were so in love that the princess no longer sat for hours weaving, and the young man forgot to keep track of the stars, which strayed all over the sky, causing havoc.

Frustrated, the Sky King separated the lovers to different sides of the river, promising that, if they worked hard, he would allow them to meet up on the 7th day of the 7th month.

Legend further adds that the first time the couple tried to meet, they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. The princess wished with all her heart to cross the river, and a flock of magpies came and made a bridge with their wings so that the couple could cross to meet each other.

It is said that if it rains on Tanabata, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.

And I told you that story because… one of the traditions of Tanabata is to write a wish onto a piece of paper, and hang it in a tree, hoping that whatever the equivalent of “a bridge of magpie wings” is for you will come to pass.

And I wondered, what would you write? One of the most powerful parts of the wedding planning process is simply KNOWING what you want. Once you have that, you’re so much closer to actually achieving the wedding of your dreams.

I regularly speak with couples who have no idea of what they want or don’t want for their ceremony and celebrations, and most often it’s because they honestly haven’t thought that there were options open to them. Fair enough, since every wedding they’ve ever attended or watched on TV has been pretty much the same as the next one.

There are a myriad of different ways to celebrate, and depending on what’s important to you, you’ll want to spend more of your money and time and energy making those parts work. So tonight, if the sky clears enough to see the milky way, take some time out to dream, and wish, and plan in broad brushstrokes, for the celebration you really want to create.


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:, or enquire in person at The Wedding Whisperer’s Corner Store, Waimea Road, Nelson

The Curious Case of the Dog in the Wedding

Among the mail pinned to my corkboard,  the card that’s sparking conversations is a traditional “Christmas family and pets” photo with a twist – a couple snuggled up with their goats. Pets are an important part of our lives, and it’s not surprising that people want to include their pet/s in the wedding celebrations.  Horses, dogs, pet rats, and yes, even goats can be included in your celebrations, but depending on the pet, that can be sweet, hilarious, or a tornado of chaos.

Here are some things to consider before sending your pet an engraved invitation:

First up is perhaps a stupid question, but: Will the venue allow it?  Make sure you have clear approval, preferably in writing, for your plans before you hang your heart on them.

Try to be objective about their involvement. To be frank, it’s rare for the people involved to have a clear picture of how cute and well-behaved [or otherwise] their beloved pet will be. Sometimes it simply comes down to size or cuteness – in the same way that a three-year old can pull off behaviour that on a seven-year old would be considered atrocious, the smaller and cuter your pet, the more likely you are to get away with any possible behavioural glitches. Even the best behaved animals may benefit from some extra coaching before the big day.

“Won’t someone think of the animals?!”  Even more important than the question of how cute or well-behaved the animal may be –  How social is your pet, and will it actually enjoy being the centre of attention in an unfamiliar place and among a crowd of people? Any animal that’s nervous will also be unpredictable, and sometimes even dangerousAt the very least, plan a couple of practice visits to the venue, with as many guest stand-ins as you can rustle up.

Try to maximise the time you’ll have with your pet on the day, but at the same time, be pragmatic about the amount of time that it is reasonable to expect them to hang about for. Make sure you pack a doggy bag for your animal so that they will have access to food, water, and comfort toys etc during what will be for them a long and mostly boring day.

Prevent possible wardrobe malfunctions – in the same way that you’re breaking in your wedding shoes by wearing them around the house, make sure your pet has plenty of opportunity to get used to whatever they may be expected to wear. Even something as simple as extra ribbon bows can inspire hijinks – and while it was hilarious to watch the baby goat contort herself trying to nibble the flowers tied to her collar, it was a terrible distraction from the ceremony.

In my opinion, it’s hardly ever a good idea to have an animal as your ring bearer. I think human kids aren’t that great either, since we’re speaking of it, and often recommend a bit of sleight of hand between the fake rings in their care and the real rings in the best man’s pocket. At the very least stitch the rings on, and use a small pair of scissors to release them – I’ve seen too many ‘super secure’ bows that actually weren’t.

Who will be in charge of the animal/s? As in, who will pick up the poop, make sure they’re fed and watered and under control? No matter what, that person cannot, must not, be the bride, groom, or even one of the official bridal party. They have quite specific roles already, and cannot be spared for wrangling duties.

Even the best-behaved, most well-trained pet can have a bad day. Make sure you have a robust back up plan that doesn’t need you or your fiance’s permission to enact. And on the day, make sure you don’t hold on to your dream beyond what’s realistically possible: One of my brides came far too close to breaking her pelvis on the way up the aisle because the wind was making her horse skittish, but she was determined to ride him anyway.

Even more importantly, make sure that that person in charge of the animal/s has the authority [your permission, and/or the animal’s compliance] as well as all the resources needed[transport, house keys, leashes, etc] to take care of your pet – including being able to autorhise removing the animal from the property, even returning them back home, if necessary?

Finally, make sure you let your photographer and video guy know exactly what you’ve got planned – even if it’s meant to be a surprise for the rest of the guests. It’s especially important if your animal is playing a specific role in the ceremony or entrance of the bride, as well as if your four-footed friend will only be at the ceremony for a short time, so that you capture as many fantastic images as possible.

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