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Butterflies in your stomach, first kisses, the first time you say “I love you” – this is what dating is all about! When you meet someone and fall in love, marriage doesn’t trail too far behind. But what happens after you say “I do”? A long-lasting, happy marriage isn’t a given, it takes a lot of work. To weigh in on the matter, we reached out to some of the top Toronto wedding officiants to share their best advice on how to maintain a happy, healthy marriage. Enjoy!
Some say that a marriage is a 50/50 partnership. Our experience however, has shown that if all you’re looking for or willing to give is 50%, then you are settling for less than the best. For a marriage to develop, change, and flourish over time both partners must be “all in”, fully in love with one another and 100% committed to their marriage.
Chances for a long and happy marriage also greatly increase if a couple share similar hopes and aspirations for the future. You will be spending thousands of days together as a couple so you need to consider the dreams you share and where you hope they will take you in 10, 20, or 50 years.
All couples face challenges at some point in their marriage, but successful couples are unconditionally and totally committed to their spouse sharing common goals and dreams.
Rinette Emerson, Enduring Promises
Photo Courtesy of Alixandra Gould Photography
One of my favourite quotes from Dr. Gary Chapman offers great wisdom on love and forgiveness in marriage.
“Love doesn’t keep a score of wrongs. Love doesn’t bring up past failures. None of us is perfect. In marriage we do not always do the right thing. We have sometimes done and said hurtful things to our spouses. We cannot erase the past. We can only confess it and agree that it was wrong. We can ask for forgiveness and try to act differently in the future. Having confessed my failure and asked forgiveness, I can do nothing more to mitigate the hurt it may have caused my spouse. When I have been wronged by my spouse and she has painfully confessed it and requested forgiveness, I have the option of justice or forgiveness. If I choose justice and seek to pay her back or make her pay for her wrongdoing, I am making myself the judge and her the felon. Intimacy becomes impossible. If, however, I choose to forgive, intimacy can be restored. Forgiveness is the way of love.”
Great and timeless advice.
Martti Pajunen, Kettle Creek Weddings
Over the years, many people have been asked what it takes to have a long and happy marriage. Common answers include never go to bed mad at one another, share the same values, be honest with one another, learn to compromise, communicate well etc..
Well known people have weighed in on this question, as well. While everyone’s ideas have merit, Anne Taylor Fleming’s (an established author on love and marriage) statement that, “A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time,” in my humble opinion, comes the closest to my advice.
After a long and happy 43-year marriage, I feel like something of an expert on the subject. My husband, Chris, and I are enjoying real happiness when so many just don’t seem to be. We know our recipe has certainly worked for us, and we thought it would be wise to ask some close friends, who share the same good fortune, what they felt was the most important ingredient in their long and happy marriage. Surprisingly, our answers were exactly the same! Can you guess what this one thing is? Just one very simple word, the absence of which has the power to ruin everything. The one very simple word is “Respect”.
Gail Ward, Gail Ward Weddings
Photo Courtesy of Studio 2000
Our good friends at Ceremonies With Choice add to this point:
There are definitely attributes that healthy couples possess and contribute to a happy marriage. Rather than a list of qualities, I think of a pyramid. At the base, hands down, is respect for each other. While love is a key ingredient, love without respect is self-serving. That means a partner should respect you and value you as an independent person, with thoughts, opinions, and feelings. When respect is foundational in a relationship, it contributes to a sense of partnership from which every challenge can be navigated and your love can grow.
Curiosity is another foundational quality, and it’s rooted in respect. Stated another way; make no assumptions…. ever. It truly is remarkable how many disagreements would never happen if we started from a place of curiosity rather than assumption. Assumptions are based on our own experience and then projected on another, especially a partner. Assumptions actually create distance in a relationship rather than understanding. An example of this is the “mind-reading” dialogue which goes something like: “you should know how I feel” or the many variants of this. The assumption that someone else should know how you think or feel is the source of much discord in relationships and definitely one of the demon dialogues. The antidote are conversations that invite questions (i.e “help me understand”).
While the above may not sound very sexy, I consider them relationship foreplay. And yes, you’re more likely to have a hot time between the sheets or on the table when respect and curiosity are foundations in your relationship.
Martin Frith, Ceremonies With Choice
Marriage is the ultimate accomplishment in life. It is the realization that someone loves you so much, that they will dedicate the rest of their life to you. That they will sacrifice all that they are to please you, love you, give for you, and treasure you.
To be successful in marriage, my advice is to “forgive immediately, speak openly, love endlessly, and give unexpectedly”.
Wayde Salmon, Weddings By Wayde
Photo Courtesy of Ten 2 Ten Photography
One of the keys to having a long and happy marriage is to love your partner for who they are. We all have seen relationships that suffer because of trying to change the person after marriage. Some think that they can tame a wild spirit, change someone’s appearance so that they become physically attractive, force them change their career or beliefs and the list goes on. The reality is, the person who you fall in love with is who you’re going to get and that should be fantastic. When you say “I Do”, it’s because you fell in love with every part of that person, including the bits that may annoy you or aren’t in common with yours. To expect someone to make extreme changes to their personality or appearance after you marry them is unrealistic and can definitely lead to heartache.
Differences can enrich our lives and bring balance to a relationship. There is a quote by Harper Lee in her book To Kill a Mockingbird and it reads “Love her but leave her wild”. A wild spirit may find moments of peace with a calm and gentle partner and that calm and gentle partner may find and free their wild spirit from within. Don’t try to change the qualities and personality of the person that you love just because you are now married to them. Remember that those were the things that made you fall in love with them in the first place. Stay in love by staying real.
Paula Da Nova, Wedding Minister
The surest way to guarantee a long marriage is not to die early, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean a happy marriage. There may be certain factors such as common values and interests that make for an easier, happier life, but opposites attract too.
There are no guarantees in life and there is no warranty on marriage. Like most successful adventures and endeavours, we tend to get out of them what we are prepared to put in. All good relationships are based on mutual respect and treating the other with consideration. That doesn’t mean we never get angry or frustrated. It just means we understand this is a temporary situation or feeling.
There is no perfect plan to follow. Each of us charts our own course. However, most religious traditions have one common thread — self-sacrifice. To paraphrase Steve Harvey talking about his wife and family: “I live for them. They are more important than me.” I fell in love with my partner within a few hours of meeting her. I knew she was and is more important than me. I try to treat her that way.. I just don’t tell her!
Jeremy Citron, All You Need Is Love
Photo Courtesy of Sarah Sharpe Photography
We often hear people talking about marriage as being “just a piece of paper”. Not so. Within a short period of time after you have survived your wedding day, something happens unexpectedly – it’s a quiet thing. Something will challenge you and suddenly you realize that you are not alone, someone will always be there for you, will always have your back, will be there … regardless. And you’ll find yourself able to just breathe, for the first time in your life.
Secrets for a happy life? Hopefully, you have married your best friend, who actually “gets” you and will continue to laugh with you and at you, knowing how to comfort you when times are hard, sharing the deepest, innermost secrets of your heart.
Talking is good. Listening is good. Learning each other’s language is good. However, just being there in the silence is everything.
For to love a person is to see all of their magic and to remind them of it, when they have forgotten.
Mary McCandless, Four Seasons Celebrations
I do not say that lightly. Really, truly find the strongest, happiest friendship in the person you fall in love with. Someone who speaks highly of you. Someone you can laugh with you. The kind of laughs that make your belly ache. The embarrassing, earnest, healing, kind of laughs. Wit is important. Life is too short not to love someone who lets you be a fool with them. Make sure they are someone who lets you cry, too. Despair will come. Find someone that you want to be there with you through those times. Most importantly, marry the one that makes passion, love, and madness combine and course through you. A love that will never dilute-even when the waters get deep and dark.
Beth Mackenzie, Weddings For Everyone
Photo Courtesy of A Brit & A Blonde
Not only is it important to love the other person in a relationship, it is equally important to really know and love ourselves. Self-Love takes a deep commitment to one’s own authenticity. This involves de-programming all the negative messages we have been telling ourselves about our worthiness while acknowledging and cultivating the hidden aspects of our personality that are longing to come into the light. An integral part of the Self-Love journey is learning to practice vulnerability. It is not possible to truly know one’s self without dropping our armour and removing our masks to reveal the beautifully flawed, authentic being inside. In relationship, vulnerability is essential to creating intimacy. Allowing ourselves to be “seen” by another, while often terrifying, is what creates connection and fosters a feeling of safety.
Tracy B Richards, Tracy Richards Wedding Officiant
“Choose carefully, the person you’re going to marry; you get to annoy them for the rest of your life.” – Tiny Fey
I couldn’t have said it better myself! Develop the sense of humour of a comedian about your partner’s quirks. Accept each other instead of trying to change your partner’s habits and have a good laugh! Happiness is created when you both respect and appreciate your differences.
Having a wedding isn’t the end, it’s just another step in your journey together. Remember to enjoy your partner outside of your daily mundane tasks such as groceries or cleaning the cat box. Set aside a time for each other on a regular basis in your busy lives.
The best way to strengthen a marriage is to support and assist each other in being the best you can be. A strong marriage is one in which both people are encouraged and feel empowered by their partner’s support; created when both people’s needs are voiced, heard, and supported.
Sarah Bunnett-Gibson, Sarah Bunnett-Gibson Wedding Officiant
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