Reflections On An Amazing Year

Best Day Ever 2019 Recap

On December 21st I officiated my last wedding of 2019, which was also the 71st wedding Josh & Taylor 2ceremony that I’ve done this year. However, as great as that is, upon planning for Josh & Taylor’s much anticipated wedding, I also realized that the finale to a great year would also be The 100th Wedding Ceremony (that’s right: 1-0-0) that I’ve ever done. Naturally, the first thought that popped up in my head was, “Dang, that’s A LOT of weddings. I’m ready for a little rest and downtime this Christmas!” Then, my second thought (which took a lot longer to formulate in my tired brain) was one that really stayed and hasn’t left. And that is exactly why I’m sitting and typing these words on Christmas Eve 🙂

As I prepare for my own wedding on February 1, 2020 which will be officiated by my best friend and cousin, I have been reflecting on the significance of the role that I’ve gotten to play again and again in making couples’ wedding day truly the Best Day Ever. In my life I’ve witnessed some great wedding ceremonies officiated by clergy, family members and close friends; and I’ve seen some really awkward and off-putting ones as well. Sometimes being charismatic, a good public speaker, deeply spiritual or simply knowing the couple well isn’t enough when it comes to officiating a good wedding ceremony (none brett & missy 2of these are bad). Although on average of only 15-20 minutes, the wedding ceremony is a celebration of the love between a couple that is meant to go on forever. It’s this incredibly delicate moment in time where an officiant is tasked with celebrating the unique, eternal love between two people and charging them in presence of family and friends to prioritize, above all others things, keeping that love and companionship alive for a lifetime. The wedding ceremony not only aids in setting the tone for the rest of the celebration that is to follow with loved ones, but more importantly, for the love-journey that the couple will travel together everyday of their lives together. A best day ever wedding is not meant to be just a celebration of the couples’ union, but a public declaration of their unique love and what they do that makes that love work and grow. That’s not only a weighty thing to think of as an officiant; but also a humbling honor that I’ve been given time and time again.

As I’m wrapping up 2019 and reflecting on the many loving faces (some covered with tears of joy and all covered with contagious smiles) during all those 100 ceremonies, here are some Simple Key Ingredients that are always present and instrumental in every Best Day Ever Wedding Ceremony I do:

CELEBRATION

What would a wedding ceremony be without this key ingredient? It’s kind of an over-obvious thing to start off with, but sometimes we can be so bad at it. Celebration really takes intentionality and purposefulness. Every couple has a very unique and interesting love story that is meant to be celebrated on their wedding day. Even if a story doesn’t seem “crazy intense” with all sorts of compelling parts to it, Danny & Meredith 1that very love has compelled the couple to enter into a marriage union that says, “I value you so much in love, that I would lay myself down no matter what the cost to see you lifted up in this life’s journey!” Now, that is something worth celebrating! The individuals in the marriage are always worth celebrating on their own as individuals, but on this most special day where they are truly becoming one in marriage in the sight of friends and family (and God too if that’s your thing), their life together is truly beginning that will continue to beautifully grow through all life’s twists and turns! My number one aim is always to weave the spirit of joyful celebration throughout the whole ceremony!

INITIATION

Dovetailing on the spirit of celebration, you kind of need people to celebrate with, right? I don’t believe guests at the wedding are meant to be just spectators who show up to eat some cake and have a good time. Guests are meant to be participants that are literally Chris & Keyton 1 - COVER PHOTO OFFICIALpart of the wedding as well. Dear family and friends have played a role (whether big or small) in helping the couple to become who they needed to be to find each other and walk their journey of love together. Therefore, I love this process of initiation where I charge the guests as witnesses not only to celebrate the couple day-of, but also to bless, support and encourage the couple in their union in the days to come. As a witness, it’s a pretty amazing role you get to play in reminding the couple of what’s most important in their life’s journey: honoring their love, prioritizing one another and growing together as perfectly suitable companions throughout all life’s changes!

REVELATION

As a storyteller, this is always the fun part where I get to make the ceremony fun and personalized. It goes like this: “Here’s the love story that we celebrate today!” This is the point of revelation where we get to focus our sights on why this love is so worth Austin & Madison 1celebrating. Starting with how the love story began, the unique way that it progressed, highlighting some of the funny speed-bumps and surprises along the way, revealing silly quirks, we arrive at the beautiful conclusion that, although imperfect people, the couple is perfectly suited to bring out the best in their partner for a lifetime. Every revelation always has the same ending: “There’s no companionship on earth like the one that you have found in one another. There’s only one YOU! You as a couple are so richly blessed to have one another and we are all benefactors of your love and story as well in this life’s journey!”

ACTIVATION

Lastly, a Best Day Ever ceremony is always meant to be an activation of the couple as they enter an eternal bond of love together. Whether it’s the vows, the charge, the rings, 49625903_10118417616331124_2645223112966144000_oa word of blessing from family and friends or any other special element, everything in the ceremony is purposed to inspire the couple into laying hold of and experiencing every blessing that their journey of marriage has in store for them. I love charging the couple with remaining true to their unique identity as both individuals and as one together and striving to do everything to keep that love burning brightly everyday! Closing with, “To the extent that you do all these things [mentioned above] this living love that you have will bind you, warm you and bless you in all that you do!”

As I write these closing words, I’m already getting excited for the next 100 weddings and beyond where I get to again and again aid in making couples’ day truly the Best Day Ever!

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LOVE THAT GETS YOU HIGH

I always get very excited when I get to officiate a weddings. In fact, oftentimes the feeling is almost euphoric. Case and point: when the bride and groom finally see each other face to face and absolutely light up; when the wedding guests are all heartily tracking with the ceremony to bless and support the couple; when everything is perfect in that most special moment of celebrating love, there truly is a very significant feeling that you as the officiant will experience as you are charged with facilitating this precious ceremony toward its zenith: “I now pronounce you as husband and wife”. I think that it is safe to say that sometimes witnessing and celebrating this love kind of will give you a rush and almost make you feel high…

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I learned this in a very unique way when I traveled all the way to Scotland to marry my two dear friends Reeco and Laura. Reeco definitely is not from Scotland. He is an island boy from the nation of Barbados and met Laura while serving at YWAM in Los Angeles. Both being talented musicians/vocalists, they would attend my church and sometimes help out with the music on Sundays which is how they initially became close (I’d say I get some credit for the beginning of their relationship). When they got engaged, they asked me to officiate their wedding in Laura’s home country Scotland. Because of my love for the couple and having always wanted to go to Scotland, I think that within five minutes of them asking me I had already purchased my airline ticket.

One thing I learned in my travels is that the Scots are not the hard rugged people we always see portrayed in Braveheart and other films (even though most the guys at the wedding were wearing kilts). The Scots are some of the most kind, gentle and hospitable people I have ever had the joy of visiting and being hosted by. Enter into the story my host family for the weekend: Ian and Rona. They were friends of the bride’s family who lived in a farmhouse out in a country village called Lanarkshire. Their beautiful home overlooked sheep pastures and looked like it was straight out of a storybook. Even though they never had met me before, they were willing to open their guest room, feed me, entertain me and drive me around all weekend. I have to also add that Rona was a killer cook and an even better baker. Her pantry and table overflowed with homemade cookies, breads and cakes that were impossible to say “NO” to.

Reeco and Laura 4

After a very jetlagged sleep, I awoke on the first day to a breakfast spread that Rona had put out that was fit for a king: coffee, tea, eggs, bacon, toast, jams, cakes and some of the most rich and delicious yogurt I had ever eaten. This breakfast of champions fueled my day all the way to the rehearsal and following rehearsal dinner. After another great night’s sleep I awoke late morning on the day of the wedding to the same breakfast spread. The only difference was that Ian put it on because Rona was in town getting her hair done for the wedding. After eating the same breakfast and polishing off another whole bowl of delicious “yogurt”, I showered, dressed and got on my way to the wedding venue. As I was preparing for the ceremony I noticed on my Fitbit that my heart rate was extremely elevated and that I was also feeling very amped up despite the fact that I had drank only one cup of coffee. After some deep breaths, I managed to get the anxiety under control as the ceremony was beginning.

Reeco and Laura 3

From the moment that Laura walked down the aisle and Reeco saw her for the first time, there was such an overwhelming sense of joy in the room. I began the ceremony and the spiked anxiety quickly transformed into an overwhelming euphoric sense peace and excitement as songs of praise and worship filled the wedding hall and you could feel the tangible presence of God. The laughter and sweet love between the bride and groom as they exchanged vows left all present (even those watching via Facebook live) just feeling great. We signed the wedding certificate, Reeco kissed his beautiful bride and then made our way to the reception. And that was the moment when I absolutely crashed and passed out in the car.

Reeco and Laura 2

The next day after an amazing wedding party, I gathered with Laura’s family for dinner. As we reflected upon the incredible day we had all just had together, it was brought to my attention that what I had eaten with my breakfast the day before was not actually yogurt. The day after the wedding, Rona was baking the next batch of her famous carrot cake and after foraging through her fridge, she could not find her large bowl of frosting. That’s because the day before, her husband, thinking it was yogurt, served it to me with my breakfast. And I ate the whole thing without raising a single question. Maybe it wasn’t just the love that was in the air that day that made me feel such a rush. Maybe it was also the diabetic dosage of sugar that my body was desperately trying to process as the beautiful couple became man and wife. Regardless, I still believe and know very well that witnessing, experiencing and celebrating love like this will always be a gift to us. And even though it may not always make us feel “high”, this kind of love is meant to bless and transform us like nothing else can or will during our days under the sun!

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A LOVE WORTH CELEBRATING

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One question I always love asking couples that I marry is this: “If you could describe your Best Day Ever using one word what would it be?” Nick and Katie Miller, who were one of the first couples I married upon moving back to Washington, wanted to feel great PRIDE. When Katie first contacted me, she expressed interest in just having a simple private ceremony with their two children and a couple witnesses in front of a beautiful waterfall about an hour drive away. They didn’t want a formal wedding ceremony or the stress of coordinating something big. She asked, “Would you be willing to make that kind of long drive?” to which I replied, “To do a wedding ceremony in front of a waterfall? Absolutely. That sounds epic!”

Well, as you can tell from the picture above, there was no waterfall wedding. That plan fell through and Nick and Katie proposed a couple different locations for where to have a small, private ceremony. But for some reason nothing seemed to land home in their hearts. It became very apparent, very quickly that God had different plans in store for Nick and Katie, because they truly have a love that was really worth being celebrated by family, friends and loved ones.

I won’t go into details about their story, but this beautiful young couple has a love that was forged in the fires of some of life’s greatest challenges. Where so many people would normally turn away from the difficulty and choose easy street, Nick and Katie, again and again, demonstrated a selfless love toward one another and their children. And through it, they saw both their faith and their relationship soar to new levels. Their family and friends knew all this very well. They knew that their journey was one that is saturated with love, steadfastness and God’s faithfulness. And so, Nick and Katie decided to have a “larger and more formal” wedding ceremony because they knew that their love was truly one that was worth celebrating!

Once they finally got a date picked, Nick and Katie sent me an address for a house out in Buckley (which is out in the country if you don’t know). After a beautiful drive, I finally pulled up to a farmhouse that was surrounded by trees, a barn and a pasture inhabited by Scottish Highland Cows (so cool). In the final minutes beforehand, Nick and Katies’ family and friends were all pitching in to set up what would be the most amazing barnyard wedding I’ve ever seen. Guests began to arrive and you could tell right away how excited everybody was to celebrate this amazing couple. Nick beamed with joy as his children were wheeled in on a Radio Flyer wagon followed by his beautiful bride walking down the aisle. You could tangibly feel God’s presence at work making the moment so unique and precious.

As I began my remarks, I got such a great sense that we needed to briefly stop what we were doing and recognize how proud and excited each person in the crowd was just to be there to celebrate this amazing couple. People raised hands and applauded this beautiful couple right in the middle of the ceremony because they all knew their story, what they’d overcome together and most of all, the great future that God had in store for them. Nick kissed his stunning bride, they walked down the aisle as husband and wife and a fun and memorable country wedding reception was in full swing. My favorite part of the story is that what started as just a small ceremony transformed into something that made Nick and Katie feel what they truly wanted deep down all along from family, friends and God all along: PRIDE!

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An unexpected Best Day Ever guest

Kelan is one of my oldest childhood friends of more than twenty five years. He met his beautiful wife Joleen when we were in high school. She worked at a smoothie store in our hometown and was Miss Teen Washington that year, so it’s safe to say that Kelan spent a lot of money on smoothies that summer. After spending time apart in college, Kelan and Joleen finally rekindled their romance several years later. After becoming engaged, Kelan asked me to officiate his wedding and I was blown away by the amazing opportunity of performing the wedding ceremony of one of my closest childhood buddies. I mean, how many people get an honor like that?

Both Kelan and Joleen come from good Italian stock and both sides of the family really know how to throw a good party. So we all knew that this best day ever wedding was going to be both classy and a heck of a lot of fun. On an afternoon in October, after months of preparation and planning,  we gathered at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Seattle for what we all knew would be an unforgettable day.

Everything was in place. The venue was spectacular. The bridesmaids, groomsmen, ring bearers and flower girls were all dressed and ready. This best day ever couldn’t have gotten better… or could it?

Kelan and all of his groomsmen present were all huge fans of the HBO series The Sopranos. So it came as the best addition to the day’s festivities that Steve Van Zandt who plays Silvio Dante walked into the hotel lobby just as Kelan and Joleen were taking photos with the family. Steve was in town that evening playing with Bruce Springsteen and was dressed and ready for his show. The second he spotted the bride and groom, he quickly left his band-mates and entourage and B-lined it over to Kelan and Joleen to give them a warm greeting and blessing.

As this was all happening I thought to myself, “There could not be a more random yet personalized impacting way for God to send a message to the bride and groom to say, “I’m for this union because I love it and I love you!”

Fifteen minutes later, Kelan and Joleen walked down the aisle to become husband and wife, and the beautiful ceremony was made all the more special because of all the little blessings and confirmations they received along the way that day – including their unexpected best day ever guest Steve Van Zandt. It just serves as a great reminder that as you prepare for your best day ever, always be looking for those signals from heaven that God is always sending you: “I’m for you and I’m for love!”

Oh and one more awesome thing to make all this even cooler. Kelan and Joleen’s beautiful Tuscan-themed wedding was featured on brides.com. You can check out that RIGHT HERE 

love that keeps you on your toes

I met Walter and Cat online last week (only four days before their best day ever). After five minutes on the phone with Cat I felt as if I had both made a new best friend and also, met my match in the category of “extrovert extraordinaire”. She had me tearing up as she made me laugh while sharing her story with Walter. In Cat’s words: “Life has been a crazy, difficult adventure and after all these years without him, I’m finally marrying my best friend. There’s no doubt about it: God brought us together!”

For their best day ever, they wanted a small ceremony at the beach in Golden Gardens Park in West Seattle. Of course, because being by the water is their favorite thing to do together, they wanted a ceremony standing out in the waters (with me included). This got me out of wearing a suit, so I 100% consented. But in all seriousness, there was an even more profound aspect of this setting for their special day. For them, water represents peace and refreshing, but also a washing away of old things to bring the new. We all agreed: bring the Kleenex because this is going to be a short but powerful ceremony!

However, Saturday morning I awoke to cold wind and rain. I reluctantly put on shorts knowing there was a possibility we’d still plan on going in the waters together. I arrived at the park and Walter bluntly informed me that he wasn’t planning on going in the water. Myself, the groom and all the guests sat under umbrellas and an easy-up tent waiting for the bride to make her grand entrance. I had prepared myself to officiate a brief ceremony under the little tent keeping my glasses unfogged and Ipad safe and dry…

… until Cat rolled up 10 minutes later.

The first thing that came out of her mouth was “Alright, everybody down to the water!” After knowing Cat for only four days, I knew that everybody was going to do exactly what she said. Two minutes later, Walter, Cat and myself were standing up to our shins in the cold waters of Puget Sound as the twenty or so guests watched from the shore wrapped in blankets and under umbrellas. As I began my opening remarks (through clicking teeth from the shivering), Cat looked up at me nervously and said, “Can we make this quick?”

Love keeps you on your toes. It  pushes you out of your comfort zone. It compels you to ditch the norm while filling you with boldness for sake of something great and new. Love like this is what we were all there to acknowledge and celebrate.

I scrapped all my well-planned notes and took a 15 minute ceremony down to about 4 minutes and 58 seconds. I knew what we were doing and honoring together at that moment in the cold waters was more special and compelling than any words I could ever formulate and say: the beginning of something brand new and powerful that God had made!

We laughed through shivering vows, cried as the bride and groom wept tears of joy, my fingers were so numb I almost dropped the rings and I managed to wrap it all up and got the couple out of the water just as a whopper of crab was getting ready to eat Cat’s feet. As we all sat under the tent drinking hot coffee, eating cake and getting the feeling back in our toes, we all laughed and smiled agreeing that a day like this that kept us all on our toes truly turned out to be the best day ever!

 

a Best Day Ever wedding

Thanks for stopping by to check out my website which is finally up and running.  Here’s a little snapshot from a beautiful wedding that I recently officiated in Tacoma, WA at the Fine Arts Museum. It truly was the best day ever for this couple! Check out the feedback from their special day below:

We would HIGHLY recommend John as a wedding officiant. He did an amazing job listening to us and catering the experience to what we were looking for while also helping to guide us through the process based on his extensive experience. John took the time to learn about our story and what was important to us as a couple. He was very responsive, organized, and professional in our planning and in the rehearsal and wedding day activities. During the ceremony, he was a dynamic speaker and storyteller, able to deliver a message that was both light-hearted and moving. More importantly, he made us feel comfortable and relaxed. We received many compliments from guests about the ceremony and specifically about John’s ability to tell a great story about us as individuals as well as our relationship. John is a wonderful person and sincerely cares about making your wedding day a very special experience.

Rob and Jamie 1