Zahra and Derek's Wedding at Montecito Country Club

Photography by Anna Costa

Wedding Ceremony at Montecito Country Club | Miriam Lindbeck | Photography by Anna Costa


Derek, a handsome, fit trainer with a top drawer clientele in one of SB’s private clubs, was restless.  His life wasn’t full enough in Santa Barbara—rather like not enough exposure to big city life. A friend suggested he move to NY. The pulse of humanity was undeniable there. So he moved to NY, and stayed with a friend until he got himself settled.

After 6 months, he began to wonder how anybody could live in NY their whole life!  It was then a good friend encouraged him to get onto If just for good conversation and meeting people from all walks of life, it could increase his human interests.  

It was there he found Zahra, self described as a “Social Scientist”. Instantly he was drawn to her.

He reached out to her, a tiny link was made and then she cancelled the date. Again he reaches, she accepts, and again breaks the date. It happened again.  On the fourth attempt, Zahra knew this was her final chance.  She wasn’t breaking the dates because she was playing with him. She was a litigation associate at a large law firm, and nearly all of her waking hours were spent at her desk.  She even pulled all-nighters from time to time…

So when she reached out and made the date, Derek was very skeptical and ho hum about it.  He was planning on saying “Adios” when he met with her.

But the Fates had another plan.  The moment he saw her walking towards him, his interest piqued. “This is going to be good!”, he thought to himself.  The moment she saw him standing in front of the restaurant waiting for her, she thought, “OMG! I’m in trouble now”.

They both couldn’t believe the other was the least bit interested in them. Derek was struck, thought he was playing out of his league, she was so eloquent and gracious; she was beside herself wondering what the catch was, he was so nice, handsome, sweet and engaging.

They again to set aside priority time for each other. It was all so natural yet “too good to be true”. One day, standing on that teetering edge of not knowing if the other cared the same, she finally stole the thunder and declared her love. She beat him to the line twice, raising the bar on him each time. It didn’t make him unhappy at all but it made him strive to speak first!

When one is in the presence of a powerful and beautiful woman such as Zahra, the wisdom is to willingly surrender to the gift.  Derek did without giving up a cell of himself. He indeed, became ever more magnificent. When he asked for her hand, she had already given it.  He knew he was chosen.

Their wedding was so abundant with love and beauty, heart and Soul, it claimed every single one of us. Their natural elegance, regality, and exquisite respect and wonder they brought to each other, caused all of us to stand back just enough so as not to interfere with their sanctified field.

They are a gift to the world, a Holy Place on Earth. This is a love that is Sacred, is archetypal and necessary to the evolution of humanity.

To them I give the reading from the Song of Songs: “My Love, My Friend”, because this is who they are for each other:

“In knowing and loving you deeply,

I have become a part of the ground-spring of love,

Which is God.

Sometimes I realize

I have looked at you so often

I hardly see you,.

You are more a feeling than a face,

A feeling of what you mean to me,

What you share with me,

What you do for me...

But I must remember you have your own face,

Are your own person.

And to that person I owe

All the gentleness and respect and sense of wonder

I owe God.

For you are God come closer to me

Than in any other face.”

Michele and Brian's Wedding at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Photography by Fortuna Photography

Wedding Ceremony at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum | Miriam Lindbeck | Fortuna Photography

Every couple I am privileged to work with, leaves me with unique feelings that come from their essence, from who they are. Each one has their own love-print in me.

With Michele and Brian it’s adoration, joy, and an indescribable happiness. That’s what I feel when I am with them. In their presence, I feel the energy of adoration, joyous love, playfulness and profound gratitude. Everyone who knows and loves them, have said they too, feel laughter, joy, love and unbounded affection.  They are bright lights in the world

The fun thing with them, is their heights.  Michelle is not even 4’11” where Brian is, I believe, 6’10” or more. During their engagement photos, Michele got such a sore neck from looking up so much at him for so long, that we decided to have Brian get down on bended knee to kiss her in their ceremony. No one knew the plan was in place except the wedding court and photographer, and when the moment arrived, it was absolutely touching, fabulous and magical.

They incorporated the Philippino Kasalan Ceremony which blessed all their sponsors while their sponsors blessed them:

The Veil Ceremony symbolized oneness and their protecting each other;

The Cord, draped over both their shoulders as an infinity symbol, symbolized infinite loyalty.

They finished with the Coin Ceremony—

"The thirteen (13) arras (coins) represent wealth and prosperity for each month of the year with an extra to spare assuring luck for the newlyweds and their future family the whole year through and beyond." As Brian passes the coins to Michelle and she passes them back to Brian, it is a symbol of their mutual support throughout every aspect of their marriage throughout the whole of their lives.”

Their vows? They wrote their own. Oh my. So rare. I don’t have permission to share them.  They are so personal and deeply sacred, and if I could share them, it would uplift all of us and give us all permission to give voice to our deepest feelings for our Beloved and our love, with the freest heart ever.

They and their families made all the table favors, spreading everything out over Michele and Brian’s floors for weeks. It was a wedding of intense love, the weaving together of families and friends, of cultures and traditions old and new, and a grand celebration under the sun and the stars for a pair that defy description and limitation and who light up the world.

I had a hard time finding the words for them in my address for the ceremony, but I took my stab at it.  Some of it is printed below.

Excerpts from Michele and Brian’s wedding ceremony:

“Are all of you up against it like I am to describe these two???

Michelle and Brian, all the words in the universe that describe light—brightness, brilliance, radiance, shimmering, shining, glowing, luminous, sparkling—describe the both of you.

Then we go on to extremely capable, intelligent, gifted, forward thinking, always learning, energetic, leaders and contributors, you are unmatched, fresh…..each of you causing breakthroughs in your individual industries…one in shoe creativity, the other in high tech. Your intelligence and energy knows no bounds!

Yet the most luminous of all is your love! You as a couple respect, treasure, enjoy, adore, love and honor each other in a spirit I have never seen before! You tend to each other with gratitude and extreme care. Every exchange between you, you focus upon with your whole Being, as if your life depends on them, and truly, it does!  

You have found the truth--that to be so alive every moment and responsive to each other every moment, sustains and keeps you in Present Time and Now Love—the very pulse of Life itself. Indeed, you are each other’s life!  Life, in it’s very essence and substance is Love. And Love, in all its expressions, is the only true power, source and sustenance in the universe, and you have it fully and foster it with great joy and fun. You encourage its endless supply to flow in and between you without interruption.

…Like a forever bubbling and flowing fountain, you are wellsprings to each others hearts and souls.”

I hope you enjoy just looking at their pictures. Perhaps you can feel some of what I do and imagine what they feel.  If you get even a glimpse, you’re going to have an amazing wedding yourself.

Healing the Family Strife


“There are two Masters in this world: Love and Fear.  You can serve only one.”

“Love accomplishes in five minutes what labor takes fifteen years to achieve.”


dealing with challenging or critical family issues that have recently arisen, or ones that you have had for a few months, a few years, or a long time? Problems that are significant enough, you are worried about their impact on your wedding day?

Has your mother throughout the wedding planning process become your worst enemy?

Have your parents become demanding and seemingly focused on what they want, not what you want?

Have your siblings become emotionally reactive and now uncooperative?

Are you facing the hard news of your parents divorcing?

Are your parents already divorced and not getting along such that that it’s causing you anxiety and real concern over their possible behavior at your wedding?  Are you wondering how to handle them?


Whatever your situation, you’re going to want to handle these issues early in your planning as much as possible before they effect your wedding day. Directly or indirectly,  day of your wedding, you will feel whatever is going on, both positive and negative, no matter how involved you are with the festivities. So set yourself up sooner than later for the best possible outcomes.

The good news is, you can make a positive difference in any situation in a short period of time. You don’t want or need to become the family therapist, you just want to be a transformer who makes good things happen faster than we can imagine.


There is a saying I live by, and use with my couples, and am glad I do:

“There are two Masters in this world: Love and Fear. You can serve only one”.

At the base of all human problems is fear. With the problems listed above, many of them stem from the fear of loosing you, and the fear of not being included by you.
Often, not always, a mother who is obsessed with your wedding, never had the one she wanted. So through you she is trying desperately to experience what she lost as a bride. She can come across as controlling, demanding, pouty, guilt-tripping, resistant, aggressive and passive/aggressive.  These are all faces of fear. Hard to get that, but that’s all they are.

If she is taking the reins from you to make an impression on her social position, there is really something else deeper she is seeking but doesn’t know it.

So you as the bride, you who at the moment is getting “all the attention”, can put yourself in the power seat by being compassionate and clear with your mother. Sometimes if a mom is a little off mentally/emotionally, you will have to have equal clarity along with your compassion.

For the mother who is afraid of loosing you, let her know you love her, that you will always be there for her no matter where you are, that though you are getting married, you are not abandoning nor leaving her forever. She will always be your mother, you will always be her daughter and that can never change. Explain to her why you are envisioning your marriage the way you are.  Include her in your ideas, let her in and at the same time, let her know that this is your marriage, you are embarking on a life with your soon-to-be-husband, and that from now on, you and he will be making decisions together, and the wedding is the place where all of that begins. Promise her you will make her important that day, that she is important now and that you are grateful for everything that she has ever done for you. Essentially, love her up. If you have to repeat some of it at other times, do so, but keep the message going. You’ll be surprised and happy at how responsive she will become. All she wants is to be loved and cherished by you, and even though she’s your parent, she has a little girl inside her too that will come out when least expected who needs to be reassured.

For the mom who is taking over, inviting all her important friends whom you don’t really care about, and who is taking decisions out of your hands, she is running on fear. She believes she lacks something and is reaching for externals to prove herself worthy.  You can provide the real need for her.  What she is seeking is her self worth and a level of recognition and with your extending your love to her in the form of how much you value her and what she’s contributed to you, a large part of her driven behavior will calm down and then you can work together as a team.


These same principles will work with your father.  Dads never want to “give their daughter away”. It’s a terrible thought for them. I let my brides father know that he was the first man she ever loved and nothing can replace him. He will always have a specialplace in her heart.

If dad is getting disgruntled about the cost of your wedding, or how your mother is feeling, sit down with him. Tell him you are extremely grateful for what he is doing for you and for what he has always done for you. Let him know you will always be a loyal daughter and will be there for him, for your mother, and the family no matter where you are. Have a frank discussion about the expenses, and be willing to give up some non-essentials for the sake of generosity. Show him you’re not being selfish and acting entitled. Love and gratitude will melt down barriers quicker than anything on earth. Forgiveness happens in an instant, and the return to love and closeness is certain and forever.


Sibs are no exception. They don’t want to become “lesser than”, they want to feel important to you, important to the family, part of your life. Jealousy and fear can occur dramatically, but always, the hand of love and kindness reaching out to them successfully brings them back.  If it doesn’t work right away, there are underlying issues that have not been resolved.  They may involve you, they may not.  If they do, have a little talk and let them know, that even if there are differences between you, that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them and you don’t have to be alike anyway. If the issues don’t involve you, extend a little compassion and lend a listening ear. It won’t take long to diffuse the tension.

Stop any tendency to judge them. Judgment is a terribly unkind act though it is knee- jerk to humans. It hurts the judger as much as the judged.  I love this one saying, finding myself having to apply and reapply it every day: “Judgment is drinking the poison yourself expecting the other person to die”. So give yourself and your sib to love.  What happens will be miraculous.


If your parents are divorcing in the middle of your planning, let each of them know individually that though it hurts to see them in such pain, that since they feel this is their best decision, you will respect it and do your best to understand. Often we can’t, we simply cannot walk in their shoes, but we have to accept that they know more than we do about their situation. Let them know you are going to focus on the loving bonds of family that exist whether the parents stay together or not, and ask them to join you in that endeavor, even if it’s just for the duration of your wedding. But it’s a great practice for the whole of life, and they’ll be happy they put forth the energy.


If your parents are already divorced and don’t get along, then if possible, speak to them individually or write them separately. Let them know that in the days when they were first married, when you were a child and the family was whole, a love flowed through everyone. That love never dies.  It can get buried under hurt and angry feelings, but it never dies. Let them know you feel sad for them that so much painful material has built up between them, but would they be willing to join you in a safe place of caring for this new marriage and family you will be creating. Invite them to meet you in this intention and support, that you would love and appreciate it and are needing peaceful relations for your start. Given the opportunity to become committed and to focus on something more positive, parents who care enough will step up. If they do not, ask them to try to be on their best behavior just for your wedding, and take other steps that are merely logistical such as seating them apart from each other both at the wedding and at the reception and that often handles the problems effectively.


So remember, change is scary for most humans, and your getting married is a huge change. Some families are over-joyed with the expansion, some families suffer from fear. If yours is feeling fear, then the antidote is love. Serve love, serve it up, and everyone will heal, including yourself. It gets the intended and desired results at lightening speed.