Young Hip & Married: A Wedding Officiant’s Love Story

Shawn Miller is an officiant and CEO of Young Hip & Married, a wedding company that gives couples the freedom to express their love for each other in their own unique way. Oh, the coincidence—Shawn’s birthday happens to be on Valentine’s Day. In celebration, Shawn offers his services for free for one day each February, marrying people pro-bono in Vancouver’s Robson Square. It’s his way of giving back to the industry that has given him so much. What began as three free weddings and two vow renewals in 2014, has now grown into a huge event that attracts hundreds of couples, several wedding vendors and a slew of media coverage. It’s an occasion that is quite indicative of how big Shawn’s company has grown and how far he’s come, but his journey hasn’t always had quite the same fanfare that he is now so grateful for.

There’s a lot to learn when you take your passion and try to turn it into a business, especially in the circumstances where it doesn’t make you any money. Shawn Miller’s story is about life, family, and navigating the challenges of being able to do what you love.

Back in 2007, as a full-time letter carrier with Canada Post, Shawn began listening to self-help audiobooks on his long days hitting the pavement; these inspired him to pick up a career as a life coach, someone who could help people be the best version of themselves. After devouring 300+ books during his time with the post office, Shawn put himself through training. In California, he studied Neuro-Linguistic Programming in Santa Cruz, then did a certification and leadership program at the Coaches Training Institute in Santa Rosa,  before  starting his own life coaching practice. He called it The Miller Achievement Institute.

Despite all his passion, dedication and full-time investment, the business failed.

“I believed I was a great coach, but on the business side of things… I didn’t know what I was doing. I think I was too proud at the time to understand that.”

Shawn fell deeper and deeper into debt, to the point where the bank showed up at his doorstep to foreclose the family home, the same day his wife was having a home birth with their second child. It was a paradox of emotions for Shawn, but it also meant it was time to be honest with himself, and he decided to close the business down.

“When you’re broke and trying to follow your passion, the waters get muddled. When you take your passion and try to make it a financial thing, it becomes really challenging. You have this pressure to make money and somehow the passion gets lost.”

It was a tough period, and a time where Shawn felt he had to abandon his dreams and instead took up a job at a bank as a teller. It was a roadblock that changed where he expected his life to be, and the type of life he wanted to give his family.

“When someone loves you unconditionally, despite your actions, there’s something really powerful about that. It allows you to perform and behave differently because she sees me for my higher self. She sees me not only for who I am, but who I could be. That love inspires you to grow. It inspires you to want to become the best version of yourself for them.”

When it came down to it, it was the love Shawn and his wife, Erica had for each other that helped them to overcome this period of financial hardship. If anything, it helped them to grow closer together and stronger.

Slowly and eventually, life coaching managed to sneak back into Shawn’s life. Shawn and Erica, who has a background in psychology, fell into couples’ coaching in their spare time. Before long, a new business proposition was in the works, and Shawn paired up with a friend to combine wedding officiating with coaching. Shawn went into it slowly, taking a job as a server to make money at night, while he worked on the business during the day. This second time around, he never borrowed a dime.

Today, Shawn’s job is to celebrate love, by helping couples create a lifelong union. What sets his company apart from any other, is the desire for a successful marriage, not just a successful wedding. Young Hip & Married has continued to grow, and is now expanding out of Canada and into the United States. Shawn acknowledges wholeheartedly, that he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for his wife. They realised if they stay strong together, they could get through anything. It’s their love for each other that fuels his love for marriage.

“I know how amazing it can be when someone knows you inside and out, and someone sees you and someone affirms you, regardless of your actions. I’ve messed up big time, like big time with a capital F, and she’s loved me through it all.”

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