Over the past several weeks it has been my sincere pleasure to chat with so many amazing professionals in the wedding industry. We’ve chatted about 2017 trends, hair and make up, the bridal boutique experience, floral design, unique venues, custom invitation suites, and wedding cakes! If you’re planning a wedding in the New England area, consider yourself lucky! You are surrounded by so many talented and kind-hearted wedding professionals!
Today will be my last interview for 2017 as all of us in the wedding industry are entering into the busy season! I can assure you that I will pick this project up again next winter! As I thought about what advice was missing from the interviews I’d already conducted I realized we had covered so much about the beautiful wedding day plans, but we hadn’t dug to the core of what the day was really about! Your wedding day is a celebration of finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. It’s a giant commitment that surprisingly enough is easily overlooked when planning the wedding day itself! So I really wanted to take a step back and chat with someone who could give some advice to all the engaged and newly married couples who are reading this blog. I’m so grateful that Reverend Erin Goodman was able to sit down for a little question and answer with me! If you read any of the wedding planning blogs I’ve written, please make sure you don’t skip this one. This is what it’s all about, friends!
(Above: Photo by Carlos De La Rosa)
ATP: Hi Erin! Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do?
EG: Hi Elise. My name is Erin Goodman or Reverend Erin. I am an ordained Interfaith Minister who works with individuals, couples, and families of all faiths, no faith, multiple faiths, and those who identify as “spiritual but not religious” during times of transition, celebration, sorrow and reflection.
I have been officiating weddings here in Southern New England since 2010 and I absolutely love my work. My specialty is creating warm, personalized, custom wedding ceremonies and supporting engaged couples emotionally and spiritually as they prepare for their wedding day and create a healthy, loving marriage together.
ATP: I’m so delighted to chat with you! So far I’ve interviewed wedding professionals to help couples in their wedding day plans. But more important than that one special day is planning for a strong marriage. This is so often overlooked in our extravagant-wedding-obsessed society. How do you work with couples before the wedding to set them on the path to a strong marriage?
EG: This is a great question, Elise, and it really gets to the heart of my work with couples.
Right from the first meeting I have with my engaged couples, I try to help them to view their wedding day and their engagement leading up to their wedding day from a larger perspective. If we allow it to, the wedding day can easily become a be-all-end-all event, which can create a tremendous amount of stress for the engaged couple and their families. But really, what a wedding is — or what it can be — is the joyful, ceremonial celebration of the beginning of a long, healthy, loving marriage.
To help engaged couples to maintain this more balanced perspective throughout their engagement, while we are discussing wedding day details, I also weave in questions and open-ended conversations about things like: communication skills, conflict resolution, self-care, stress management, work-life balance, money management etc.
ATP: Wedding planning is stressful for so many couples. There is the stress of pleasing everyone involved in the planning and often the stress of money and how much the wedding will cost. What advice do you have for couples to help them enjoy their engagement and wedding planning process?
EG: One of the things I like to do to help my clients relax and enjoy their engagement is to give them (optional, but strongly encouraged) “homework assignments” between sessions to carve out time to unplug together, step back from work and wedding planning — and enjoy each other’s company (i.e. go on dates!!).
Not surprisingly, many of my couples report that this homework is one of their favorite parts of wedding planning and it is my hope that this special time they create and enjoy together during their engagement carries over into their marriage.
ATP: Many times the ceremony seems like a quick afterthought in the wedding day plans when really you’d think it’d be the focal point! While a beautifully planned out wedding reception is delightful to attend, the ceremony is actually what the day is all about. How do you help couples plan a wedding ceremony that really means something to them? What advice do you give them about how to treat the ceremony?
EG: One of the first questions I ask the engaged couples I work with is to describe how they want to FEEL during their wedding ceremony. As a longtime yogi, I encourage them to close their eyes and come into their hearts and really get in the energy of the feeling space they want to be in as they exchange their vows and formally enter into their marriage.
Some of the things I hear most frequently are that my clients want to feel . . .
In the moment.
Authentic (Be who they are.)
But really when I ask this question, I am not looking for any specific or “right” answers. It is meant to be an open-ended question that allows each individual couple to identify what is most important to them — and then I help them to reverse-engineer the day, so to speak, to increase the likelihood that they will have the experience they desire.
Then as they are making any one of the hundreds of decisions involved in coordinating a wedding celebration, I encourage them to come back to the feeling space they want to be in on their wedding day (which I have made notes about for them), and see if a particular choice feels in alignment with the intentions they have set.
And then if necessary, I coach and help them to practice talking to parents, friends and family members, who may have very strong opinions about specific elements that need to be included on the wedding day, to lovingly express their boundaries and choices that work for them (the couple).
ATP: Are there any concerns that a lot of engaged or newly married couples come to you with? If so, what are they and how do you help them address these concerns to strengthen their relationship?
EG: The two biggies that are coming to mind for me are communication skills and conflict-resolution skills.
Often couples do not experience a significant amount of conflict in their relationship prior to their engagement or even during the beginning of their marriage, but we all know that conflict and disagreements are normal and healthy and bound to happen in long-term, intimate relationships.
What I often find in my work with couples is that even when two people love each other very much and are deeply committed to their relationship, they can also have very different styles of communication and may have learned totally different things about how to manage conflict as children and young adults.
This is why I like encourage all of my engaged clients to talk openly about how conflict was experienced in their family of origin (and also in past romantic relationships).
-Were arguments loud and explosive? (And maybe quickly over and forgotten?)
-Was conflict “swept under the rug” and ignored?
-Was there a lot of passive-aggression? (Door-slamming, huffing, puffing, mumbling and “cold shoulders” or silent treatments?)
-Or was conflict seen as a healthy and normal part of relationship and growth and discussed and worked through openly and positively?
What the research shows, and what I have witnessed personally in my own life and in supporting couples and families, is that in times of stress and challenge, we often revert to what we learned as children — unless we have consciously worked to learn new skills to manage conflict and express feelings of frustration, hurt and anger in a healthy and productive way.
ATP: Wedding planning takes so much time and effort and often becomes all you focus on for that year or two. When it’s over, things can feel like they come to a sudden halt. What advice do you have for newly married couples on how to continue to grow in love for each other in those first few years of marriage?
EG: This is another great question, Elise. It’s true that there is often a void after all the wedding planning and festivities are over. There’s actually even a name for it — “the post-wedding blues” — and sometimes couples (or one partner) can feel very restless and maybe a little “lost” or even sad following their wedding.
When I work with engaged couples, I like to make them aware of this possibility — which is not to say it will definitely happen, but just so if it does, they are not caught off guard.
Many couples I work with choose to have a quiet, low stress “mini-moon” following their wedding so they can have time and space to rest and decompress from the intensity of wedding planning and celebrating.
Things like camping (or “glamping”), having a staycation, renting a cabin or beach house for a few days, or staying at a nearby hotel for a couple of quiet nights can be a nice way to stretch out the celebration and lessen the intensity of everything happening all at once.
Some couples may then choose to have a larger vacation (honeymoon) at a later time, maybe even to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, which gives them something special to look forward to and plan together.
I also often encourage couples to consider pursuing a new hobby — taking a cooking class, learning a language, or trying yoga or pilates (or line dancing, improv theater, home-brewing etc…) as a couple — in their first year of marriage (and beyond) to help keep things new, fun and fresh in their relationship.
ATP: Any other advice you’d like to share for couples to have long, healthy, loving marriages?
EG: There are lots of advice books and articles and cute sayings out there about how to have a long, healthy, loving marriage, but one of the things I like to remind my couples is that they get to be the creators of their marriage experience — and that it doesn’t have to look anything like their parents’, friends’, or coworkers’ marriages.
What matters most is how the marriage feels on the inside, not how it appears on the outside.
I also always like to put in a plug for the importance of having professional support throughout the marriage. It might be in the form of couple’s therapy, spiritual counseling, reading and reflecting on a relationship book together, going on a couple’s retreat, or even just speaking with a trusted friend, advisor or mentor.
Regardless of the form it takes, there is incredible value in stepping back from the busyness of day-to-day life and making time to be together to reflect on the joys and challenges of being in an intimate relationship; what’s working well and what parts of the relationship (and the flow of daily life) could use some loving attention; and then working together to make positive changes.
And lastly, that having a long, healthy, loving marriage — where two people can grow and evolve and be the best versions of themselves as individuals and as a couple (and for those with children, as parents) — is absolutely worth the time and energy (and willingness to learn and sometimes stretch out of our comfort zone) that it takes to sustain and nurture such a love.
Erin, thank you so much for providing my readers with such wonderful advice on how to keep their soon-to-be marriage in the front of their minds when planning their wedding! If you’re interested in connecting with Reverend Erin, you can find her here:
(**Photos in this post were provided by Erin Goodman and shot by photographers noted/watermarked)
Thank you to all of the amazing wedding professionals (my “friendors”) who took the time to be a part of this interview series! I hope to have the opportunity to work with many of you over the next several months and I’m looking forward to the 2018 interview series! Cheers to the 2017 wedding season!