We regularly ask experts their opinions about various facets of wedding preparation. From flowers to venues and gowns, there is no shortage of knowledgeable professionals around the Big Easy. We haven’t, however, talked to a professional whose area of expertise is to ensure that couples remember the most important part of a wedding: their relationship. LaToya Papillion-Herr, more commonly known as Minister Toya, is a local wedding minister, marriage coach and author. Minister Toya has been helping couples around New Orleans and beyond since 2015 – after becoming inspired to serve couples following the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. We picked Minister Toya’s brain on what couples might be forgetting when it comes to their relationship and preparing for the marriage after the vows.
What is the number one thing you tell couples to focus on before the wedding?
The number one thing I tell couples to focus on is each other! It is easy to get wrapped up in the details and nuances of the wedding day. Be intentional about being fully present with one another and enjoying even the small moments.
What else do you suggest couples do to prepare before exchanging vows?
Vow exercises are fun activities I suggest for couples to prepare for exchanging their vows. Ways to prepare can include using a timer for 2 to 3 minutes and staring at one another with no words or looking away, writing a 3-minute short story and sharing it with one another, discussing what they will do with their hands during the ceremony, and standing still (in their wedding shoes would be best) for 30 minutes. Couples always giggle when I talk about “vow exercises” but they help!
What can couples expect when working with you in preparation for their wedding?
When working with my couples, one of my primary goals is to meet them where they are. Wedding planning (no matter the size) is going to come with its own set of stressors. But when it comes to preparing for the ceremony, I work to keep it as fun and relaxed as possible. I create space for us to laugh, share stories, and connect. That is the energy people see the at altars with my couples. I don’t necessarily write punchline jokes or humor into my ceremonies. There is simply familiarity and comfort so that we can share in authentic moments of joy and celebration for their experiences, at the altar.
Are there any tips or tricks to tackling communication between a couple before they get married?
Communication is always such a layered topic. But one of my biggest tips is for couples to be compassionate, gentle and honest. Compassion means that you can pause your own feelings or triggers to hear what is being shared by your partner, then processing without judgment. Being gentle offers you both the opportunity to feel safe sharing your needs and concerns honestly. Having the space to give voice to your different feelings and experiences is invaluable in marriage.
Is there anything else that was not asked that you think engaged couples should know before tying the knot?
One thing that I’d want engaged couples to know before tying the knot is, ‘Be prepared to navigate life with the many people your partner will become.’ As humans, we are bound to change. Our ideals will change, experiences will shift our goals, and personal convictions will change as well. But when you are dedicated to living a long full life with someone, you should also be preparing for the ebb and flow of that life.
Click here to learn more about Minister Toya.