updated 02/08/2010 AT 3:00 PM ET
•originally published 02/09/2010 AT 11:00 AM ET
The Rev. Ricky Kirton, the pastor who performed the marriage of Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren, has a message for the troubled couple: “Forgive each other. Be there for each other, and it will work out.”
After learning of the pair’s marital troubles, which came to light after the pro-golfer’s Thanksgiving car crash, the Barbados-based preacher “started to pray for them,” he tells PEOPLE.
Though he hasn’t spoken to the couple since their wedding in 2004 at the swanky Sandy Lane resort in Barbados, Kirton recalls that both were “charismatic” and “attractive,” and how, like all the couples he marries, they appeared to be in love.
Before Woods and Nordegren said their vows, the preacher says he offered them pre-marital counseling, but they opted not to take it. Still, he says, he talked to them during the ceremony about the keys to marriage, including communication, trust, forgiveness and “putting the past away.”
Kirton, who is barred by a confidentiality agreement from discussing the details of the wedding, shares what he tells all the couples he marries: “I tell them to remain true to their vows. I want them to know this is serious and they have to work hard.”
He also advises couples about the importance of apologizing. “Remember these four phrases,” he says. “I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.”
With reporting by LINDOR REYNOLDS