Tag Archives: engagement

Engaged… Now what?


by Desiree Hartsock
So your man finally popped the question in the most romantic way ever… Now what!?!

This is a question asked at least once by a newly engaged bride. Whether you have been planning your wedding since you were a little girl or barely thought about it, you are a new seed in this fast-growing pot known as the wedding industry.

It’s hard to know where to begin or what your first step should be. It’s not everyday that you plan a wedding… So, first things first. Continue reading

Two Essential Questions Before Saying “I do”

Wedding ringsBy: Sasha Stone

Recently I caused a minor Facebook frenzy with the following comment:

“It is my observation that marriage for my generation is irrelevant and represents the death of love. I have a few examples in my life that prove otherwise, which is beautiful and wonderful. What about you? What’s your experience?”

I will admit, I did this partially to provoke people. I knew it would strike a chord and married people would get defensive. I was curious to see what that defense would be, because honestly, I would rather my observation be inaccurate. No surprise, most responses had a lot to do with romantic notions of forever, family, and devotion. Those that said their marriage was thriving sited communication, honesty, and respect. This, though, was my favorite response of all:

“Marriage is not just a piece of paper. It is not a piece of paper to prove love. My husband proved that to me well before we got married — which is why we got married in the first place! However, it does open up a lot of options legally – think about health care decisions, financial combinations, term life decisions etc…”

Why my favorite? Because this is real. This has a purpose.

Since my divorce in 2009 I’ve kept a close eye on my views on marriage, observing any changes and fluctuations that might occur and why. In the midst of my divorce, I felt fairly certain I would never get married again. Not because I was bitter and jaded, and not because I didn’t want to have a family, but because marriage had lost its meaning to me.

I got married very young (age 25), and though in love, we hadn’t really spent any time discussing our motives for taking such a huge next step in our relationship. There was the practical consideration of me being able to stay in the U.S., and the idea of wanting to be together forever. Beyond that, we didn’t really look at the deeper currents of why, and consequently nor whether this move was truly in the greatest good for either of our lives.

Whether consciously or not, I think many people get married to hold on to that relationship and that person forever, no matter what, even if there are massive gaps in values, vision, and priorities. As though somehow, having that official certificate guarantees your idealized vision of love and that the person will be yours forever. Clearly, divorce rates indicate otherwise, but people still seem to think, for them it will be different.

What happens all too often though, for my generation at least, is the paper gets signed and the relationship takes a nosedive. I know that is not the case for everyone, but it is strikingly common. I could probably write a 1000 page essay on this topic, there’s so much to it. But I am going to stick my neck out and say the main reason this occurs is because despite our social evolution, we still cling and grasp onto the romance saturated view of marriage that is fed to us through fairytales, both classic and contemporary. Our starving mind (our hearts are usually wiser) latches on to that idea and laps it up voraciously. Then we get married, and our socially evolved self revolts, does not want to accept the illusion of this arrangement, and suddenly, desperately, wants out.

Last year, I had the honor of officiating a wedding for a beloved student and friend (yes, that’s right, minister Sash). I had to be very thoughtful about it because I didn’t want to be a fraud standing up there, guiding two people into an institution for which I hadn’t yet made peace. So I asked the couple tying the knot to answer two questions for me (an assignment they had to do separately, without consulting each other).

#1) Why are you getting married?

Seems straight forward enough, but many people answer this question with something basically along the lines of, “I love this person, I want to be with them forever, and I want to build a family and life with them.” That is awesome! I say go for it, but guess what, you don’t need to be married to do any of those things (at least not in the Western world). Love and commitment are beautiful and wonderful, but you can be married and completely not committed. You can also be fully devoted and not married.

Dig deeper. What are some REAL reasons for making this massive commitment? I find the answers that are deeply spiritual, deeply traditional, and/or deeply practical to be the most compelling. If you and your spouse-to-be have those reasons in common, then there is a much more substantial backing to walking down the aisle than simply the forever story. You have no idea what life is going to hurl your way, but if you have super strong convictions about why marriage is essential to the progress and evolution of your relationship and life together, then you have a firm foundation to stand on.

#2) Why are you marrying this person?

Ok, here is where you get to be romantic and gushy. Still though, I encourage you to dig deep. What makes this person so highly unique and dear to you that you are willing to make a lifelong commitment to them? Get it all down. Be extremely personal, reflective, and specific. Then, when you hit those rough spots in your relationship, come back to this document and remind yourself what a precious being you have the privilege of sharing your life with.

Of course, there are many more questions to ask oneself, but this is not intended to be a guide on finding the right partner (when I figure that out I’ll get back to you ;). My intention is simply to draw your attention to two basic questions whose answers are often taken for granted rather than sincerely discussed.

Yes, I do believe in Love. I believe in commitment, I believe in family, and I believe that humans are meant to live their lives in togetherness, not isolation. I want love, I want babies, and I want to experience the crazy journey of being with someone for a very long time. Would I get married again? Only if the reasons for it truly make sense, and that if I decide to take that step with someone, that we have been openly thoughtful about it and see eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart on the why.

Take action now:

  1. Share your reaction to this article in the comments below.
  2. Send this to someone preparing to embark on the marriage journey. It might offer them a little guidance before taking the plunge.

Originally published on Sasha’s blog 

photo by: State Farm

Marriage, Schmarriage: What’s The Point In Getting Married?

What’s the point in getting married?

My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years, and several of our girlfriends feel it is their duty to bug us about our future wedding date. Neither of us are very thrilled by this. We’re not in any rush to move in together, and we are certainly not in any rush to legally tie the knot.

Maybe it will happen one day, but then maybe not. As my boyfriend had wondered outloud on more than one occasion: how would a legal court document make our relationship any stronger? 

Don’t get me wrong: I do believe that for many couples, getting married carries a symbolic spiritual weight that is extremely important, and that shouldn’t be denied. Still, I am in full support of another alternative for partners: the idea that it is possible for long-term couples to be happily committed to each other for life–and it’s totally cool that they’re not married, and may never get married.

(Let’s not also forget that getting married is still not an option to gay couples, and that’s complete bullshit.) 

More and more long-term couples are making a conscious decision to not get married. One of the more famous examples that come to mind is actor Johnny Depp, who has two children with his long-term partner Vanessa Paradis, but is still not married after nearly 12 years of being committed to each other.

Interestingly enough, a recent article on CNN reveals testimonies from 15 women of varying ages who are in long-term relationships and are not in any rush to tie the knot with their respective partners. Some have already been divorced and are wary about rushing into another marriage. Others are afraid that getting officially wedded will make the relationship stagnant. Still, others, like this woman from Seattle, simply do not see the point: 

"I just don’t see the point in paying money and having a wedding to prove how much we love each other. We have been together for seven years and have three amazing children together. We have four cats, a dog, an aquarium, a nice little house, are financially stable, and most of all we are incredibly happy with things just the way they are."

Another woman shares an interesting example of how calling off the engagement with her long-term boyfriend actually made their relationship even stronger: 

"This is a question I am asked often, specifically by my female friends and family members. To be perfectly honest, I do not have an exact answer. I just have a bad feeling that marriage isn’t something Keith and I should do. I can’t really explain it, but the feeling is there, and it gets stronger and stronger every time someone asks me why I do not want to get married. In the end, I will continue to go with my gut and just stay the way we are now."

So what are the advantages of not getting married to your long-term romantic partner? Here are some reasons: 

1. You don’t have to deal with the financial stress and burden of planning a wedding. No trying to appease both families. No guest list drama. Plus, think of all the money saved from not having to deal with: the dress, the rings, the venue-planning, the invitations, and so on.

2. There is no societal pressure to stick it out if a relationship has become unhealthy, stagnant, and is probably better off ending. In a marriage, you are expected to be with your partner forever "’Til Death Do Us Apart." Geez, no pressure there. On the other hand, simply being in a long-term relationship without the marriage works for many people because they don’t have to deal with that psychological back-lash of being obligated to stick with the same person for the rest of their lives.

3. You will never have to deal with divorce, ever. Just imagine your ugliest, most painful break-up, but with the extra time-consuming, expensive and tedious work of dealing with legal stuff with your ex.

4. No last-name drama. Enough said.

While marriage is an important institution for many people, I would also like to see the option of not getting married become more socially acceptable for couples. Maybe there will be less unhappy marriages. Maybe there will be a loosening of the stereotypical husband and wife roles that box in so many people once they get married. Maybe there will be more constructive dialogue, a more fluid definition of what long-term love can look like.

Plus, in the grand scheme of things, love is love whether you have a legal court document or not.

Popping The Big Question On Camera: 6 Wedding Proposals On YouTube To Melt Your Heart

According to an informal study by one psychologist named David Rose, about 90 percent of women who are proposed to immediately feel the need to cover their mouth with their hands. Here is what the NPR article has to say on this common phenomenon of women covering their mouth with their hands after the big question is popped:

Now you not might think that’s such a profound observation. But the more YouTube proposals Rose watched, the more intrigued he became. Rose calls the reaction "shielding."

"Everyone knows the face is an emotional radiator – it’s a communication system that tells others what you’re thinking," he says.

At this moment of peak emotion, Rose thinks the emotions are just too intense, too naked to reveal completely.

"It’s as though the woman is thinking, ‘Oh, my god, this is going deep into my soul, what am I showing here?’" he says. "When I see the very few who don’t do it, I wonder, what does this mean? Are they unusually non-emotional? Does it mean they don’t care about this guy? I don’t know."

The article also included one marriage proposal captured on YouTube following one couple’s traveling adventure in Spain. The big question isn’t popped until after the 4 minute mark–and even if the man in question takes one of the woman’s hands away from her mouth, her other hand instinctively goes up to cover her face.


(I will admit that I was only half-watching the video up to the climactic moment–and when the Big Moment finally came, I IMMEDIATELY teared up.) 

Thanks to YouTube, living vicariously through another couple’s moment of extreme joy is now no longer limited to sappy movies and TV dramas. You can peek into the lives of real, non-fictional people whose climactic moment of engagement happened to get captured on someone’s video recorder or flip cam.

With so much bad news in the world, sometimes we just need to take a moment to feel joy for two complete strangers madly in love with each other who are ready to begin their new life journey together. Here are a handful of YouTube marriage proposal videos that will melt away your inner cynic and reveal what an inner romantic softie we all really are.


 Damn, talk about commitment to some elaborate pre-planning! One artist  faked an elaborate art opening with a fake artist and a fake artist statement where a sculptural installation in a gallery spelled out the words "Will you marry me" to his very unsuspecting girlfriend. 


A short and sweet video capturing a marriage proposal on the skating rink. Unbelievably touching.


Live proposal on the weather channel! Best part: the weather screen behind the couple turns into a big fat heart.


The Best Marriage Proposal Ever

This video unfortunately does not allow embedding. But it is worth checking out, if not to marvel over all the woodwork this guy goes through just to stage an elaborate contraption in the middle of the woods.


How can you possibly turn down a guy who performs an elaborate choreographed dance with his friends in public just to propose to you?


Okay, so not everyone out there is a die-hard romantic–and maybe you are currently extremely bitter about relationships. If happy sappy love is only going to make you feel like crap, then maybe this marriage proposal FAIL during a basketball game will make you laugh just a little bit…

 Poor girl covers her mouth with her hands, but for entirely different reasons.

When “I Do” Means “I Want” – The New Rules of Registry

When we got engaged, I suspected that my husband-to-be was much more excited about registering for gifts than actually getting married. He’d been talking about registering for years—long before we even lived together. Now that it’s official, we’re a little stumped about what we actually want to put on our registry. Originally, wedding gifts were to help a young couple transition from their parents’ house to their new home, but we’ve both lived on our own for a long time, so we’ve got all the plates, silverware, and expensive cooking gadgets we need. 

Since people today marry later than in previous generations, many couples are finding themselves in the same boat. Couples like us who already have a toaster and matched luggage tend to feel guilty about requesting more “stuff.” We don’t really need a gravy boat and salad spinner, and nowadays there are more options than ever for wedding registries, so couples can ask for the things they really want. But gift-giving is a touchy subject, and these new registries come with plenty of new rules. 

Registering for Gifts 

What’s Apropos: Registering at Nontraditional Places
Wedding registries are still as popular as ever—so popular that they’re popping up in places far beyond the traditional housewares emporiums. Outdoors enthusiasts can register at REI, electronics junkies can register at Amazon, and divers can even register for SCUBA equipment. It’s possible to register for furniture, sporting goods, home improvements, computers, and even stock. Regardless of the store, a couple’s registry should always contain items at many different price points, so that guests will have no trouble finding something within their budget. 

What’s a Faux Pas: Making It Too Personal
No matter where you register, it’s important to choose items that benefit the whole couple rather than frivolous or personal things. Don’t ask for personal equipment like wetsuits or golf clubs unless every “his” is accompanied by a “hers.” When the list stops feeling like a wedding registry and starts feeling like a birthday wishlist, 
guests will feel uncomfortable. It’s a wedding, not an excuse to beg for shoes, clothing, or other personal novelties. Just because you want it doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for a wedding—most people would feel squeamish browsing a registry at Frederick’s of Hollywood and Victoria’s Secret. 

What’s Apropos: Designating a Specific Purpose for Funds
There are creative ways to ask for money without making guests feel like they’re just chipping in for wedding expenses. One of the most popular choices is a honeymoon registry. Sites like 
TheBigDay andHoneyLuna allow couples to create a Web page detailing their trip and the things they’d like to do, including shopping, spa treatments, sports, and meals. Guests contribute toward specific activities, so they feel like they’re giving the gift of an experience, like a candlelit beachside dinner for two, or one round of golf, instead of an impersonal lump of cash. If you break down large expenses (like the hotel room) into smaller, more manageable chunks, several guests can even contribute to the same expense. 

Honeymoon registry experts advise that it’s perfectly fine to register for your hotel and airfare, but don’t expect many people to contribute to them. Most people would rather chip in toward fun activities and meals, so be sure to include plenty of those. 

If you’d rather have money for a new car or a down payment on a house, consider setting up an official cash registry at a site like GoGift. Guests can donate any dollar amount they feel comfortable with, and they can pay with credit cards if they prefer. Even some banks are getting in on the registry action, offering special accounts for couples that are saving for a first home. 

What’s a Faux Pas: Asking for Cash Outright
This is rude, even if it is what you really want—some 
guests may feel like you’re charging them an admission fee for attending the wedding. If you’re dead set on asking for cash for a big purchase such as a car or house, allow the guests to deposit their gift right into an account so the process seems more official. If you ask guests to contribute to your honeymoon, spend the money on what they designate, don’t just take the money and run. Ultimately, there’s no oversight as to how you spend the money, but if your guests have paid for you to go on a snorkeling trip, don’t use that cash to pay your electric bill.  

What’s Apropos: Donating to a Charity of Your Choice
For philanthropic couples, creating a 
charity registryis a great new way to ask your guests to put their money to good use. You could allow guests to choose their favorite charity, or register with IDoFoundationor JustGive to have guests choose between a few causes that you select. The site features charities that specialize in animal abuse prevention, women’s rights, poverty alleviation, and many other causes, from small non-profits to large charities like the ASPCA and the American Cancer Society. 

What’s a Faux Pas: Offering Only One Option
When asking guests to donate to charity, it’s polite to give them a choice of where their money can go. Remember that unless you’re passionate about something universal like cancer research, the cause near and dear to your heart may not necessarily be to everyone’s taste. Controversial political causes, especially, can be touchy subjects, and guests may not want to donate to organizations that they don’t believe in. Do include your favorite among the choices, whether it’s Planned Parenthood or Students for a Free Tibet, but be sure to offer some mainstream charities like Make-a-Wish or Habitat for Humanity. 

Even with modern registries, some of the old rules still apply. It’s never okay to mention your gift registry information on the wedding invitation, and if you decide to go with a non-traditional registry option, it’s a good idea to have a second, standard registry for people who prefer to give traditional gifts. Some people, of course, will always ignore the registry and buy something unexpected. If you get three chip ‘n’ dip sets, write gracious thank-you notes and promptly engage in another time-honored wedding tradition—re-gifting.


Emergence: Bringing Out the Best Situation for Social Change

Thoreau wrote: "Though I do not believe a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."

This week was filled with the wonder of emergence and great reinforcement for having faith in seeds. In this spirit, I spent a good part of the week holding space for, facilitating and witnessing a process of deep healing between colleagues both reflecting and informing the transformation of an organization. While at times I may be more inclined to “try to make things work” or to intermediate, as my faith in emergence increases, I do less of this (and less pushing or trying to control) and focus on how can I tap into the emergent possibilities and create conditions to foster their manifestation.

This same awareness is deeply informing how I approach the “marketing” of my new book, Working for Good: Making a Difference While Making a Living. When I was marketing Private Music, Yanni, Spinning, Seeds of Change, ChiRunning, among other things, I was informed by my understanding that marketing is a process of cultivating relationships, and relationships are emergent processes. Thus, in marketing Working for Good I need to show up for the exploration of relationship and put forth what I have to offer to the relationship (in this case, the book), then it is up to others to relate to and respond to the offer, or not. Offering blog posts reflecting my experience and insights, writing articles, engaging in interviews, presenting at conferences, and delivering Working for Good engagement experiences at bookstores are all part of the process of showing up, and presenting my offer. The next step is up to others – to receive it or not. And from there, the process continues, as dialogues with people who have read the book are already leading to other things.

I find this orientation of embracing emergence, versus driving towards a specific goal, to be highly satisfying, full of delight, and fruitful – as in producing significant results.

Not that emergence is always easy or stress-free – on the contrary. But trying to control or push for a specific outcome is at least as challenging if not more so, yet lacks the ease, grace, and flow of emergence.

You can’t pull the leaves of a plant and make it grow faster or differently from its nature, but you can understand its potential and needs, and create the conditions for optimal growth.

So, we can ask ourselves “what does this situation need for its emergence to unfold?” And in the answer, find right action.

Loving Kids-in-Law Isn

My daughter and her boyfriend got formally engaged last weekend. This is something I’ve been looking forward to for a couple of reasons.  First, and most important, because I love and am impressed with my daughter and future son-in-law. I also love the great partnership the two of them have. It will come as no surprise to learn than my daughter (like her sister) is pretty special and remarkable—and thus deserves a great life partner. (Most dads and stepdads I know feel the same way about their daughters—and a good thing too!) So I’m very happy for the two of them separately and for the pair they are (and will be) together.  

My second reason is one of heritage. I was blessed with two grandparents, Frank Barnes and Catherine Hughes, who I always loved greatly. As a child and young man, Bepa and Cacky (as we kids called them) taught me the importance of honesty, compassion, justice, tolerance, forgiveness, and family.  But it wasn’t until my own children were older that I realized another important—and difficult–lesson they taught me. My mother was their oldest child and the first to marry. For a number of reasons (some quite defensible), they were not thrilled with her choice of husband, my dad. But they found their way to loving him. Even with his imperfections, they saw that Dad was a good man at heart. And, during my lifetime, they embraced him as their own child. They did the same with the other people who married into their family: my Uncle Matt, Aunt Mickey and Aunt Ruth. As a result, I was very close to my aunts, uncles and many cousins. I loved this extended family with all its chaos and affection and celebrations. But I took that gift for granted—not even recognizing how this family was Cacky and Bepa’s gift to us. 

When my daughter and her fiancé got serious with each other, I suddenly realized that a good relationship between me and this good young man was not automatic. I needed to get to know him, include him in my life and take the risk of growing close to him (and growing close to them as a couple). For the first time, I saw that my grandparents’ embrace of their children-in-law was not automatic, either—even though it always looked automatic to me. No, Cacky and Bepa had to take risks, too. And they took them even when (as with my father) they had more reason to hesitate than I’ll ever have with my future son-in-law. 

Now, many years after their death, I begin to understand the level of spiritual strength and capacity of love this required. To my eyes and experience, Bepa & Cacky did not discriminate between their biological children and the people their biological children married. They loved them all, period. Same for all their grandchildren. What a wonderful and powerful example they set for their children and us grandchildren. It’s an example lived out in my generation and our parents’ generation. And it’s the example I try to follow with and for my soon-to-be-son-in-law and my daughters. 

Thanks, Cacky & Bepa, for that gift and heritage. Your great-grandchildren don’t know you the way we grandkids knew you—but they do know you nonetheless. 

Congratulations to you—and to my daughter and soon son—for nurturing such spiritual strength and capacity of love.

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