Tip #3 – Picking Your Venue (part 2)

January 18, 2017


This week’s tip is only for those that choose to go indoors, and deals specifically with the question of, “In a church or not in a church?” And while I’m going to try and be balanced in the informations shared, I’m a pastor – so it will be obvious where my preference lies. But here are a few details to consider as you make the decision between a church (or synagogue, temple, etc) and hotel banquet room and the like…


Churches are built for music and acoustics and often have built in sound systems that can make amplification much easier. Most banquet rooms have poor acoustics because of all the carpeting and the architecture of the room, and they usually require some kind of sound system to be put in place just for the wedding to amplify. Many hotels have speakers and a sound board available, but it will cost extra. In churches it is often included in the modest rental fee.

If you are planning to have a lot of music in your ceremony, or if you want the music you do have to sound good, a hotel may not be a good fit.

Advantage?  Churches

The Bridal Entry

I have a whole post dedicated to the bride’s entry later in this series because I believe it is that important in the ceremony. But for now I will simply say that most banquet rooms aren’t well suited for a great entry. Churches often have a long aisle with a large door at the back which sets the congregation up for some serious excitement as the wedding begins. Hotels or other banquet style rooms usually aren’t designed well for a dramatic entry (and yes, it should be dramatic! that’s not just personal preference but good theology).

Advantage?  Churches


A lot of couples choose a hotel banquet room or something like it because you can host the wedding and reception all in the same place, you might be able to get some kind of discount on the room because you are holding the reception there, and if some of your wedding guests are staying at that hotel, it doesn’t get much simpler.

This value shouldn’t be undersold. Long drives between a wedding and reception aren’t fun, especially for your guests with small children. A quick turnaround between the wedding and reception can be a great feature of your wedding. (Note: this can also work in a church building with the reception in the fellowship hall, though many fellowship halls aren’t in the condition couples want for the celebration of their marriage)

Also, hotels often have staff that are there to help which can offer added convenience.

Advantage?  Clearly hotels


As a Christian pastor I believe weddings to be sacred events ordained by God. And given the nature of that kind of event, I tend to think that you want to host it in a physical space that suits the occasion. Churches provide this (as does nature if that is your preference), but hotels rarely do.

Hotels are places for short-term stays where you check-in, use what you want, leave a mess, and pay for the service of someone picking up after you – so basically the exact opposite of what marriage is. But churches are places of worship, of commitment, of long-standing sacrificial teaching and relationships. That seems to me a better atmosphere to surround yourselves with on the day of your covenant that declares, “I won’t leave until one of us is dead.”

Advantage?  Churches

Final Thought

There are, of course, many other considerations. And every couple and their wedding are different. But if there is a beautiful sanctuary that is affordable and available for your big day, I suggest that you seriously consider it.


Tip #2 – Picking Your Venue (part 1)

January 11, 2017


One of the biggest decisions you will make in planning your wedding is whether you want to have an indoor or outdoor ceremony. Many couples love the idea of having an outdoor wedding – often with good reason. Maybe there is a specific location that has significant meaning for them and they want it to serve as the backdrop for their nuptials. Or they love the idea of their feet buried in white sand while gentle waves serenade the ceremony. Sometimes it just feels like an institution as ancient and foundational as marriage is best entered into in the raw foundations of nature. And it makes sense… after all, our first parents formed their union among the trees and bushes of Eden, why wouldn’t we do the same?

And here’s the naked truth – there are LOTS of reasons.

For a lot of couples their only concern when considering an outdoor wedding is rain. And they figure that as long as they have a backup plan (ie – the country club has a large tent that can serve as an emergency alternative), they are willing to take the risk. And rain can obviously be an issue. But in my experience, it’s usually other stuff that gets in the way of getting married outdoors. Here’s the shortlist:

Wind – A very gentle breeze is great for a wedding, anything more than that is bad news. Candles are useless. It’s not an encouraging sign when a couple lights a unity candle after their vows and then God keeps blowing it out. Kind of makes you feel like you made a mistake.

And even if you skip candles, wind is disruptive. Dresses fly up, musicians struggle to keep their pages on the stand, people that are reading (Scripture readers, the pastor, parents with a written prayer) fumble over the pages as they are blown to and fro. At a wedding I officiated near the ocean in Boston the gorgeous flowered arbor that we were standing under was blown off its foundation and collapsed mid-ceremony.

And most disruptive of all, wind wreaks havoc on amplification and video recording microphones. Imagine a wedding ceremony (or wedding video) where everything that is said is covered over by the sound of rushing wind and no one can hear anything clearly. It’s no fun.

Heat – At a summer wedding on the coast of Rhode Island, I had just finished leading the bride through her vows when all of a sudden her bridesmaid and soon to be sister-in-law collapsed behind her in a pile on the ground. The bridesmaid’s father (and father of the groom) leaped from his chair to tend to his beloved daughter. Soon she was revived and all was well, but it gave everyone a scare.

Of course, that’s a unique and dramatic response to heat. Far more typical is that guests are overheated and uncomfortable, fair skinned attendees who forgot to apply sunscreen bake in the sun, and makeup begins to run so the bride has black tear streaks in the pictures.

Sound – it’s amazing how many sounds you hear outdoors when you’re paying close attention. Like birds that won’t stop singing, or planes that fly overhead and make it difficult for people to hear, emergency vehicles with their sirens on, or a golfer that sinks a birdie putt on the nearby 18th green and screams in celebration, not realizing that you are trying to conduct a sacred ceremony on the terrace.

The list here could go on and on – mosquitos or black flies that come out at dusk, the clump of grass that can trip up more elderly guests, you get the idea.

My aim here is not to dissuade you from having an outdoor wedding, only to get you thinking past the question of, “but what if it rains?” Outdoor weddings can be absolutely beautiful and a ton of fun, but they require a lot of thoughtful planning and even then mother nature may have plans that day that are beyond your control.

Tip #1 – Picking your Spouse

January 4, 2017

Most weeks the tip is going to be about wedding details. And most that are reading this have already made the decision on the whole spouse issue. But the spouse IS a fairly important part of a great wedding, so I thought it was worth it to spend one week on it. So here goes – 3 quick tips on picking a spouse… (btw, I hate the phrase ‘picking a spouse’, it’s not like finding a good apple at the supermarket. I’m just not clever enough to word a better title right now.)

Make sure they don’t suck at their other relationships

We don’t always think about being in a relationship as a skill that you can be good or bad at, but we should. Some people are just plain good at relationships – with their friends, their parents, their siblings, etc. They are loyal. They are genuine. There may be conflict but they resolve it. Stuff like that.

And some people really suck at it.

If the person you are with seems to fail at a lot of relationships, pay attention. Dig into that a bit. Sometimes when we are dating we actually like it when we are the only person that our partner seems to jive with – it makes us feel special and wards off our own jealousy. But over the course of a lifetime, you want someone that can thrive in other relationships.

Look for at least marginal value alignment

Couples often align over shared interests, which is fine. But interests can migrate over time, sometimes in opposite directions, and many times don’t provide a strong foundation for a relationship. Values, on the other hand, tend to be more rooted in who we are and not to shift as much. And if you bond over shared interests without ever noticing that you have very different values, that can make things hard in marriage.

For example, what value does money have for each of you? If you deeply value generosity (to the point that you don’t have much saved up usually) and your partner values security (to the point that they welcome those moments when someone offers to pay for their dinner), conflict awaits.

This can usually be navigated. If you think of a scale from 1-100 with 1 being intensely frugal and 100 being wildly giving – most folks, though they are different, still fall somewhere between 11-89 on that scale and they can find a way to navigate their differences. But if those differences are extreme – say your partner is a 5 and you are a 95, take notice.

So how much do each of you value… security? stability? family? children? hospitality?

Listen to trusted friends & family

When I provide premarital counseling for couples I use an inventory called Prepare/Enrich that provides me with all kinds of fun information about the couple. What their strengths are as a couple, areas that can be improved, relationship to their families of origin, etc.

But one of the most interesting tidbits of info I get comes under the title of, ‘Idealistic Distortion’. This number tells me just how deluded each person in the relationship is. A low number means they see things clearly and they aren’t going to be surprised by much. A high number means they are looking at everything through rose-colored glasses and marriage is likely going to rock their world (in the not so awesome way).

The reality is, many of us lie to ourselves about our partner. We enhance their positive traits, we diminish their negative. We make excuses for their bad behavior without even knowing we are doing it. But you know who doesn’t do that (usually) – your friends & family that love you. In fact, they may do the opposite and focus on the bad stuff, which equally needs to be considered. But on the whole they see things more clearly than you because they are invested in a different way than you.

So, if you are in a relationship and everyone that loves you deeply is warning you away from it, don’t be duped by your own blindness. Listen to the wise counsel of those that love you. This doesn’t mean ALL counsel from those that love you. You may have some nutso mom that doesn’t like your partner because he didn’t get his MBA from the right school and she just can’t give you her blessing. Ignore her. But if there are a chorus of voices all saying the same thing, listen up.


That’s it. That’s the 40,000 foot view. Next week we dive into the nitty gritty – Picking a venue!



17 in ’17 – Wednesday Wedding Tips

January 4, 2017

red fingerprint heart, vector

I loved our wedding. The candy cane bearers, the surprise song, my grandfather reading Scripture – every minute of it.

I love officiating weddings. The rehearsal, the hour of last minute prep beforehand, standing at the front with an anxious groom who fiddles as she slowly makes her way up the aisle – I love all of it.

I can’t wait for my girl’s weddings (they are 7 & 1). I already have an idea for the father/daughter dance at Lucy’s wedding and have video prepped for that day.

And so… I thought I’d start this new year indulging this love. Each week for the next 17 weeks I’m going to post a Wednesday Wedding Tip. Most of them will be practical and ridiculously specific and detailed. Some will be a bit different (like the first one coming later today). But overall their aim is to help those that are planning a wedding think through the details that will make for an amazing wedding day.

The posts will cover topics like, Picking a Venue / Making the Rehearsal Count / The Parents / The Procession / The Vows, & much more.

So if you are getting married in 2017 or if you just want to store away some ideas for later, feel free to follow along. The first official post is coming later tonight – Picking your Spouse.

Paul Ryan, if you’re listening…

August 1, 2016

An Open Letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan:

Dear Mr. Ryan,

I like you.

You come across as more genuine than the average politician. Sometimes you even let your affection for President Obama leak out which I think is great – we could use a bit more of that if you ask me. I even like your nerdy version of being handsome – I don’t know how you pull that off.

And sometimes I like your politics – like your obsession with fiscal responsibility – that’s awesome.

However, recent events have soured things a bit in our relationship. But before it’s too late, I wanted to give you one last chance to not only get my like back, but a whole lot more…

Recently you endorsed Donald Trump. You hated that. Truth be told, you can’t stand him. Not as a politician, but as a person. You despise his racism and sexism and narcissism. And if you could just make a decision absent of the responsibility of your position and the potential for your future, you would have done what Jeb or John have done and kept your distance. But you’re the Speaker of the House… AND you have your eye on a certain rectangular desk in an oval office (don’t worry, I’ll keep that one between you and me), and so you did what you thought had to be done. You swallowed your pride, you put on your mic, and you said it, “…I’ll be voting for him this fall”.

Thud! (in case it’s not obvious, that was my heavy heart hitting the floor)

You sold out. You calculated the cost of going against him but the price was too high, and you sold out. And part of you regrets it. Part of you is even still considering taking it back, and it is to that part of you that I’d like to appeal.

House Speaker Ryan, I commit here and now to voting for you in 2020 or 2024 (your choice) if you will simply do what you know is right and once again swallow your pride, put on your mic, and take it all back. I know that part of you wants to. It’s the part of you that is real, and genuine, and kind, and just. And just to add a carrot, it’s the part of you that will win over younger voters who you’ll need in your quest for that egg-shaped office.

And if you’re up for taking it back, may I offer one suggestion? Your political advisors will tell you to say something like, “After first meeting with DT I was convinced that he could lead our nation forward, but recent events have shown that not to be true. Therefore, I am rescinding my former endorsement”, i.e., I’m changing my mind and DT is to blame.

Don’t listen to them.

If you’re gonna do it, go all in. Take the blame. After all, it’s yours to take. DT hasn’t changed a bit. You had the information you needed, you just made the wrong call. So own it! Give us something to believe in and just say what is true – that you knew what you should have done but you sold out to politics as usual, but that it’s not too late and that you won’t be voting for DT in the fall and you hope others won’t either.

And here’s what I predict will happen next…

In the short term you’ll be a political pariah – and that will be hard. But DT won’t win the election, and in 4 or 8 years those wounds will be ancient history and you will have endeared yourself to many. Millennials will love you, conservatives will get behind you, minority groups will believe in you, and right-leaning Democrats like myself will give you a serious look.

But even if those predictions are wildly miscalculated, at least you’ll be remembered as a man who stood by his convictions even when it was hard. A man that his wife and children can be proud of. A man that said what needed to be said when our nation needed him to say it.

I know this relationship isn’t as important to you as it is to me, but if you’re reading this and if you do it – you’ll get my like back and you’ll get my vote.



Oh – and P.S. – if you throw in an acknowledgment that climate change is a result of human activity – I”ll do more than vote for you – I’ll canvas the state and deliver MA for you in the general (5 of our last 6 governors, one whom you know pretty well, have been Republicans, so it can definitely be done).


Thoughts from a Recovering Racist

December 4, 2014


I grew up white, not just in the color of my skin, but in the culture of my youth.  My wife and I call it “super-white”.  I was raised in a small farm town in Illinois – white family, white friends, white people at my church, white teachers, white kids in my classes, white players on my sports teams, white players on the teams I played against – WHITE!

My parents are amazing and did well to raise my brother and I as unprejudiced as possible, but that background is a large obstacle when it comes to issues of race.

But I didn’t see it that way.  For many years I was convinced that, in spite of my monochromatic background, I was still able to see race issues clearly and with a balanced perspective.  And most certainly, I would never have classified myself as a racist.

I was wrong.

To be clear – I wasn’t racist in obvious, belligerent ways.  My racism was subtle and nuanced.  It appeared in silent assumptions, private fears, and in my total, absolute, pervasive ignorance of my privilege.

Thankfully, living overseas and in urban areas has diversified my life some.  This includes introducing people that are black into my world.  I have black friends, black church members, black small group members, black colleagues.  My daughter is black. Admittedly, I experience the world differently than I did growing up.

Over the last couple of weeks two grand jury decisions have rocked this country.  Some of my friends and church members have been wounded in this.  There is deep sadness, anger, frustration and hopelessness.  And I don’t know what to do about that.  I am wrecked by what this is doing to them.

And this morning was the final straw…

Last night as Minhee and I got ready for bed, I told her I was going to write something today.  The grief of watching so many friends struggle yesterday was too much, and I needed an outlet.  I decided I’d wait for morning, for a fresh perspective, and then write.

This morning I dropped off Minhee at work, then Lucy at school, and was driving back home, thinking about what I wanted to say – when all of a sudden lights were flashing behind me.

I pulled to the side of the road and waited as the police officer, the black police officer, approached my window.  He asked for my license and registration which I handed him.  The registration had expired months ago, and he pulled me over for having an expired sticker on my plate.  He told me that if he ran my plates and found the registration was indeed expired, I wouldn’t be able to drive and we’d have to tow the car home.

I told him I had the sticker at home, but I had no proof of this.  He told me to wait and he went back to his car.

After 5 minutes he approached again, gave back my information, and handed me a warning ticket.  He told me to keep the warning ticket with me, so that if I was stopped again I could show the officer the citation, tell them I’d get it fixed, and could be on my way.

He also told me that he didn’t run my plate, just in case the registration was expired, because he didn’t want me to be towed.  He looked at me and said, “I’m trusting you here man.  I’m trusting you.”

Just to recap before the icing on this cake… the officer gave me a citation that cost no money, but would save me time on subsequent traffic stops for the same issue, and also didn’t check my plates just in case I had been lying to him about them being renewed, which would have forced my car to be towed.

He then tipped his hat, returned to his car, and began to pull away.  But then he made a sudden stop and motioned for me to roll down my window.  Just in case I did need to still renew the registration, he gave me exact information on the RMV to go to, told me to skip the line, and then gave me the exact window # to approach to get it taken care of without waiting.

I looked over and told him, “I promise, it’s at home on the counter.  Two days ago my wife told me to take care of it but I ignored her.”  He chuckled at that, waved his hand, and gave an, “Alright brother, take care!”, and he drove away.

That is white privilege.

Honestly, earlier in life I would never have said that.  I would have attributed the pleasantness of that police/citizen interaction to my willingness to follow instructions, or to the calm and submissive tone of my voice in the conversation, or to some other explanation born in the womb of white privilege.

What I didn’t consider before was how easy it is to be obedient when the officer assumes trust in you.  How simple it is to be calm and submissive when the officer is treating you so well.  Back then, I just couldn’t see that I was treated differently because of the color of my skin.  Of course, it wasn’t only the color of my skin that mattered, but it DID matter.  And back then, I refused to believe that.

Over these last couple weeks, the responses of some white men and women have been discouraging, and often infuriating.  And yet, while I want to get angry, deep down I know that at times I have been them.

And so I want to end with a few thoughts to any white readers out there.  Some of you are way out in front of me on this, and I need to learn from you.  But for those that are still waiting to put the “recovering” in “recovering racist”, a few final thoughts:

  1. If your whole world is pretty much white people, like what I described above, watch what you say.  I shouldn’t tell a woman not to yell and scream during childbirth, and you shouldn’t tell the black community that they are overreacting, or missing the point, or biased.  We have no idea how they feel or how deeply this hurts.  These last two weeks have inflicted serious injury, so please keep quiet and don’t aggravate their pain.
  2. I know some of you want to defend cops, and I get that.  You feel that the everyday, sacrificial lives of police officers should inspire gratitude – not rioting. And you are absolutely right.  But these marches and riots are in response to a systemic issue of racism and prejudice, not just individual officers.  And if the primary response of the white community is to make sure police officers know they are appreciated, while showing little concern over black men dead in the street – that only exacerbates the pain and frustration of the black community.
  3. Please, please, please don’t say things like, “Race doesn’t matter – we are all just human” or “Race isn’t the issue here”.  Race matters.  Race is the issue.  Being black is the issue.  Being white is the issue  Skin color is the issue.  And to suggest that these don’t matter devalues the life experience of racial minorities as well as makes you someone they know doesn’t understand – and they can’t trust.

Finally, if you are someone that reads the Bible, then you may know Paul’s verse in Romans that says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”.  This verse assumes that there are patterns of thought informed by this world, and that those are old ways of thought that must be made new. 

And I know that I am someone whose mind was, for a very long time (and partly still is), conformed to some pretty old patterns.  But time and experience have me thinking new thoughts – and I am grateful for the transformation that has come so far.