Sunday, January 12, 2020

My Person

Saturday evening, I officiated Brooke and Eric’s wedding ceremony at the Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center in Plano, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I always ask couples how they found me. Sometimes they went searching on the internet, sometimes their wedding planner referred them to me, and sometimes a friend recommended me. And, sometimes, they were actual guests at a wedding I officiated. That is how Brooke and Eric found me. I officiated their friends, Rachel and Mark’s wedding.

Here is where things get really interesting, though. They, specifically, cited something I said during these personal remarks that they felt described not only Rachel and Mark, but them too. That is the concept of someone being, “my person.”


Faith Fishkin writes, “The term ‘my person’ originated from the show ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ My own personal definition is the person you go to for everything, the person you can’t live without, the person you can’t stay mad at, and the person that supports you in everything that you do. Being someone’s ‘person’ is a commitment. There is a very big difference between being someone’s boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend and being someone’s person. When someone is your person, you have such a deep connection and understanding of one another -- you pretty much know each other like the back of your hand.”

Now, true enough, your “person” need not necessarily be the same as your romantic partner. However, sometimes, as is the case with Brooke and Eric, you hit the jackpot, and you get both in one tidy package.

One way in which to use Fishkin’s words, Brooke and Eric support each other in everything they do is in their approach to their Judaism. You see, there can be different approaches to following your faith tradition. You can follow it because you believe God told you to. You can follow it because it is part of your tradition.

However, there is an approach that takes this one step further. Some people ask, why did God tell me to do this or what utility is there in observing this thing that is part of my tradition? Brooke and Eric ask this question. Brooke speaks for both of them, when she gives this answer: “My involvement in the Jewish community… has helped me understand the importance of community and the power of being with others in our tradition. It is through my Judaism that I have learned to do acts of kindness and mitzvot on a daily basis. In the future, I hope to expand my roots and I pray that Eric and I will be able to pass these values onto our children. As the years go on, I look forward to continuing to live a meaningful life elevated by my Judaism.”

My friends, let us all find inspiration in these words, and let us strive for, in Brooke’s words, “a meaningful life elevated,” by whatever tradition, philosophy or approach we live by.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

What Hath God Wrought



Saturday evening, Father Aaron Pidel and I co-officiated Sarah and Adam’s wedding ceremony at Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guest:

I love origin stories. Faiths have origin stories. Many of you will celebrate your faith’s origin story, from 2,000 years ago, in just four days. Nation-states have origin stories. Many of you will celebrate the origin story of an independent Jewish nation-state in Judea, beginning tomorrow night for eight days and nights.

Relationships have origin stories, too. And like origin stories of faiths and nation-states, recollections and retellings of those stories sometimes differ and sometimes complement each other. Sarah and Adam’s story is a case in point.

Here is how Adam describes it: “I was lucky enough to go on a date with Sarah. We had had a few mutual friends, and we quickly went from casually seeing one another to very seriously dating over a few months.” Simple, crisp, to the point.

Now, Adam leaves out what led to that date, and in his telling he was just lucky. Sarah goes way deeper. It’s not luck; it’s something else: “I came upon Adam. Something made me stop... I think... someone from up above intervened… He looked very handsome and had a great smile.” So, she asked him out.

Little did Sarah know; her thought was well grounded in theology. The Ancient Rabbis many centuries ago made an observation that made them scratch their heads: In the Bible, God is extremely busy in a very visible way. He’s creating the world and striking the Egyptians with plagues. He’s parting the Red Sea first and the River Jordan next. He’s raining fire on Elijah’s altar, and saving his servants, Shadrach, Meishach and Abed-Nigo, from the fiery furnace. He doesn’t really do any of that flashy stuff anymore. What has he been doing with his time, ask the Rabbis?

They tell us that he spends most of his time playing matchmaker, helping soulmates find each other, so they may fall in love and build relationships together. So, though the saying, “God is love,” might sound new-agey and like some kind of pop-theology, it’s not.

Now, check out what Paul Harvey would call, “the rest of the story,” or as the prophet Bilam put it, “What hath God wrought.”

Adam says, “Sarah... is my partner, my encouragement, and my source of strength. She makes me better, gives me unbridled confidence, and provides steadiness in my life... I know that I can count on her, I know that we share similar ideals... and I know that she accepts me as I am. I met her right after one of the lowest points in my adult life, and since then we have supported each other continuously... I cannot see myself with a better partner to live out the rest of my life.”

And Sarah says, “We have now been together for 5 years... We have celebrated triumphs... We also were together for tragedies... It really brought us closer... We have seen each other at our best and at our worst. I know that this is the man I want by my side for the rest of my life.”

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Down Pat

Saturday evening, I officiated Julie and Adam’s wedding ceremony, at Marie Gabrielle, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

This is hardest part of writing a wedding ceremony around and with a couple. Julie and Adam made it easy though, because they address the reasons for why they want to do what they are about to do so cogently. Interestingly, and if you know them this will not floor you, they both include lists. (By the way, Adam’s list utilizes numbers and Julie’s utilizes bullet points, and I’m sure some doctoral student in psychology could explain that part…)


Adam, helpfully, cautions that this is just a teaser, since his vows and toast will include more. And he admits, “There was no single moment when I knew I had fallen in love with Julie, when I knew I wanted her to be my life partner. It, sort of, snuck up on me, and one day, I just knew that I was in love. I had several epiphanies that made me realize it.” Here comes the list, and I am abridging parts here, or we’d be here all night:

“1. Nothing makes me happier than when I’m able to make Julie smile or laugh. I get so much joy from seeing her be happy. Realizing this was perhaps the #1 sign that told me I was in love and ready… The rewards from seeing that smile are endless 
2. As someone who travels Monday-to-Thursday every week, I started to realize: I missed her… I became so excited to come home on Thursday evenings, not just to be home, but because I would get to see her. I couldn’t wait to walk in the door and give her a hug. It’s a feeling I’ve never had with anyone else. 
3. Julie loves me for who I am. I’m a quirky person, but Julie has never tried to change that. She indulges my love of board games and Game of Thrones. She tolerates – and even supports – my 5am wake-up calls so I can run for 3 hours on Saturday mornings. She attends my reunions with my business school crew… She embraces my quirks and passions…” 

Now, I am probably not the only one who has observed that Julie and Adam are mature beyond their years. So, the first thing Julie says won’t surprise you: “I used to think that the definition of love was infinite closeness—knowing everything about another person and intertwining your lives completely. I’ve realized since that partnership requires some distance, to appreciate each other’s gifts and give each other room to grow as individuals… I don’t feel like I need to know everything about Adam before committing to spend my life with him... (because) Adam is extremely consistent. He has a strong moral compass and lives by these beliefs.” Then she lists four examples in bullet points: 

“• Adam is a feminist. He once turned down an opportunity for additional visibility and recognition at work and insisted that the opportunity be offered to a female colleague. 
• Adam thinks it’s important to show up for his friends. At any birthday or bachelor party, Adam can be counted on to fall asleep on the floor or couch, because he wants to stay until the bitter end with the guest of honor. 
• Adam is an environmentalist. He wrote an essay in middle school about why gas-guzzling SUVs should be banned, and is a Prius driver today. 
• Adam believes in putting the needs of others above his own. When I was flying out to Cuba after we’d been dating for a few months, he insisted on driving me to the airport at 4am, even though he had barely slept all week. When I travel for weekend trips, I have several times come home to find that he grocery shopped for me and made my lunches for the week…”  

That last part might be the most important lesson for marriage. The Ancient Rabbis ask what commandment one fulfills simply through the act of marriage. They answer, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the essence of which is putting the needs of the other, in this case your spouse, above your own needs. Sounds like Julie and Adam have that one down pat.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Journey Together

Saturday evening, Father Bryan Shields and I co-officiated Malise and Adam’s wedding ceremony, in the Academy of the Sacred Heart Chapel, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay, which serves as the raw material for these remarks. Sometimes, what they write is so powerful, the remarks almost write themselves. This is one of those cases. 

Listen to how they describe their feelings for and gratitude towards each other. Malise says, “I have never met a man like Adam. He is one of the most patient, understanding, and kind people I have ever met. Having only met him three months after I moved to New York, I was unsure if I wanted a boyfriend at that time, but he quickly became a constant in my life and provided a sense of comfort and support I cannot live without…” 


And Adam says, “I want to marry Malise because she makes me a better and happier person… She makes me laugh, accepts all of my quirks, stimulates me intellectually, and forces me to always try to improve myself… I…  can tell she'll be an incredible mother…” 

How do you get there? The answer is almost too simple: Open and clear communication, coupled with respect for the other person’s autonomy. Malise and Adam are explicit about this. Adam says: “We… have had a very upfront and communicative relationship… (We are) both… fairly opinionated and stubborn… but… we… discuss things openly and calmly with one another and respect each other’s thoughts. To me this is one of the key reasons we get along so well.” 

Malise agrees: “We have talked a lot about our future life together… how we want to keep open and constant communication… neither of us expect the other to change… who they are for each other.”

That’s why Adam says, “Given how open we have always been with each other… I believe we're ready to get married now… we look forward to embarking on that journey together really as soon as possible.” 

And it is this clarity that drives Malise to say, “I believe it wholeheartedly when each of us says we will be together forever… He is simply the perfect match for me… There is no better time than now to start our next chapter.”

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Every Day is a New Adventure

Friday evening, I officiated Annat and Weslyn’s wedding ceremony, at Remi's Ridge at Hidden Falls, in Spring Branch, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Some people think that during personal remarks at a wedding, I should talk about how marriage is all about sunshine and butterflies, about unending happiness, about constant perfection. That would make zero sense, because this is real life and not a fairy tale. And, one of the things that I love about Annat and Wes’ relationship is that they have no time for this either.

Annat is very open about the fact that, in her words, “Weslyn and I are both so similar and different from each other at the same time. I can tan, and he can’t; he’s patient, I’m impatient; he’s good at putting his thoughts into words, I’m not.”

Wes too tells us that they, “record each other dancing and send it to friends to purposely embarrass one another. We correct each other, push each other, compete with each other, and sometimes drive each other to the brink of madness.”


Annat and Wes recognize the truth in what the author, Mary Wright, writes, “There is no perfect relationship. That would be boring, right? Relationships should be complex and challenging, because a relationship that is not growing is dying. And it takes two emotionally strong and mature individuals to overcome any difficulty that may come their way.”

You do sense that these two are indeed quite emotionally strong and mature, in a way that belies their relatively young age. This is why Annat says, “I have never met anyone else that I align so great and effortlessly with. Although we may butt heads with each other from time to time, we always… turn arguments into discussions.” This is why Wes says, “We’re always real with each other. All of this… I have found in no one else.”

It is this realness, which I was surprised to discover is a real word, that leads Annat to say, “I know I can always be myself around him and will always be able to rely on him to be there for me, regardless of the situation. He is truly my best friend… He makes even the most boring days entertaining and fun. I truly believe we can encourage each other to accomplish anything we want, as long as we do it together.”

It is this same realness, that leads Wes to say, “Every day is a new adventure… she embodies everything which my soul desires, and I firmly believe that she always will. Together, we choose to live our lives the way we want, with the things we have worked for, and with the people we love. That is why I want to share my last name, share who I am, and share everything I’ll ever have and ever be, with her.”

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Courage

Saturday evening, I officiated Lindsey and Ian’s wedding ceremony, at the La Cima Club in Irving, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I always ask people how they met. However, really what I am looking for is the relationship’s origin story. Sometimes, that origin story is not in how they met, but in something else that happened down the road. To set the stage, Lindsey and Ian had known each other for a few months, had been hanging out and enjoying some real chemistry, followed by a somewhat anti-climactic first date, and Lindsey fleeing the country. (Not really, but it sounds way more dramatic that way, doesn’t it?) Here’s Ian:


“Throughout the whole time she was in the Galapagos, hardly a day went by that we didn’t talk to each other. When Lindsey returned to St. Louis, she let me know that she would like to come down to Rolla and see me, and she promptly loaded up her car to drive to a place she had never been. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it is one of the most romantic moments that I cherish. Of course, my roommates used the next hour and a half to clean furiously. Lindsey and I have been together ever since.”

Now, you might think this daring caper came out of the blue. Not so. In fact, months earlier, Ian had told Megan up here that he would marry Lindsey. He then set about to make that happen. Lindsey picks up the story: 

“As the weeks went by, Ian befriended my roommates. He found reasons to hang out at our house or meet up with us. He fixed things, he tutored people and he cooked. He came to game night, poker night, and parties. By the summer, Ian made himself a constant fixture in my life without even asking me on a date, and so logically the next thing he decided to do was have me meet his parents and all of their friends in another state. 

Ian told me that there was going to be celebration at his parent's house in Arkansas (4 hours away) for the 4th of July. He told me that he invited all the other co-ops and that I should come too. However, in reality he never asked anyone else to join--not that he told me that. I agreed to go and stay the weekend at their house. It was a wonderful weekend…”

Think about the courage it takes to do the things that Lindsey and Ian did. Resolve to act similarly. As they say in the business world, the return on investment is clearly worth it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Fun and So Much More

Sunday evening, I officiated Lauren and Joshua’s wedding ceremony, at the Orion Ball Room in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

You’ll have to forgive me. Though I sport a very convincing General American Accent, I only moved back to this country when I was 26. That means that some things are still foreign to me, a fact I sometimes try to hide. 

One instance when I had occasion to do this was when Lauren and Josh told me how they met. Lauren writes, “Josh and I met through a mutual friend when I was around 17 and he was around 18. We went to a party with him and I made fun of him for drinking a summer shandy when it wasn’t summer.” I had no idea what a shandy was. I have since looked it up. I am still unsure as to why one such drink must be drunk only in the summer months. 


Regardless, somewhat anti-climactically what happened next was, well, nothing. Josh picks up the story: “We saw each other a couple times over the fall and then mostly fell out of touch. Almost six years later we ran into each other on the way to a show during SXSW. Lauren yelled my name as I sped by on my bike. We talked for a minute but eventually went on our separate ways. Through the wonder of social media, we reconnected a few weeks later and talked on and off through the summer. One night I invited Lauren over to watch Rushmore (one of her favorite movies) and, while I joke about it, she basically hasn’t been out of my life since then.”

Life can be like that sometimes. One chance meeting leads to nothing, while another chance meeting leads to where we are today. And, you know what? That’s a good thing. 

Lauren and Josh each feel like they had some individual growing to do as human beings. That growth enabled them to slowly build a relationship on a solid foundation of understanding and friendship, which gradually matured into a love story. 

That relationship, in turn, helped them continue to grow. As Josh says, “I’ve grown so much as a person with her. I just cant imagine spending my life with anyone else.” 

This growth changed Lauren’s entire perspective on marriage itself. Listen to this: “I didn't really picture myself getting married but then along came Josh and we make it work in a way that I hadn't really thought I would get to experience. I want to continue to experience things I didn't think I would that my relationship with him provides, things like security, love, compassion, gentleness, fun and so much more.” We should all be so lucky.