Sunday, February 11, 2018

Right Time

Saturday night I officiated Courtney and Luke’s wedding ceremony at the Belo Mansion, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Let’s, Stephen Covey style, begin with the end in mind. Courtney describes Luke proposing, in a way that not only hints at how far back their relationship goes, but how naturally Texan it, regardless of where they may currently live: “Luke proposed... on the 50-yard line of our high school stadium, which we had so many great memories tied to. We were back home... for a college friend’s wedding and got to celebrate with family and friends afterwards. It was a very exciting day, one we both will always remember!”
Now, I say this HINTS at how far back they go, because these kiddos actually did not meet in high school. Don’t be crazy. They met in 5th grade.
They didn’t date then, though. They waited until the ripe old age of 9th grade. From then on, Courtney says, they “dated other people off and on but after the last home football game of senior year, we told each other how we felt about each other and dated from that point on. However, in early August, the night before I left for sorority rush at OU, we decided to break up, so we could both enjoy our college experiences. He was going to Clemson and we knew how tough that distance would be.”
The word “we”, which Courtney uses in the phrase, “we decided” is, shall we say, an interesting choice. Here is how Luke remembers it: “While Courtney may say this was mutual, I was never truly onboard for breaking up.”
Uh oh.
Don’t worry, though; he knows she was right: “In hindsight, this was the best decision we could have made, as we were much too immature to have lasted “long distance”. We went our separate ways for several years, though we remained friendly and spoke often. I returned to Dallas for medical school, and she to teach, and one day during my second year we went out and have been together since.”
In this, I believe they teach us an important lesson. It’s not only important to be at the right place, be it the Belo Mansion or the J.J. Pierce 50-yard line. It’s not only important to be with the right person, no matter when you met them, be it in the fifth grade, high school or medical school. In fact, those two variables might be comparatively easy.
It’s important that it be the right time. And, sometimes, you might think you have hit the right time. You might be utterly convinced of it. You still need to take a step back, be objective, reassess the situation, and not be afraid of where that reassessment takes you. And, if you do it right, you might just end up, like in the fairy tales, happily ever after.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


Saturday evening, I officiated Ashley and JP’s wedding ceremony at the Asia Society, in Houston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One of the unwritten but quite explicit rules of our American society is that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can succeed. And, Ashley and JP are really hard workers. The event industry, where they met, is defined by very hard work, coupled with extremely long hours.

This is not only true of Ashley and JP, in their professional lives. These two, like most smart couples, have never taken their relationship for granted. They have carefully nurtured and cultivated it, and it shows.
What is important to recognize, though, is that that is not enough. The comedian, Conan O’brien’s phrasing of the unwritten rule I began with acknowledges this. He says, “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” Talk to Ashley and JP’s friends, and you will know they have this one covered too.
Still, hard work and kindness are not enough. The whole quote from Conan clarifies this, “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
What else do you need, then? Well, it helps if you have a little bit of luck. For instance, and I’m just spitballing here, if you want to find your soulmate, it helps if you work in the same industry. It helps even more if your employers do business with each other. It certainly helps, if through that, you end up spending many hours together by necessity, and get to know each other really well, as friends first.
Luck can be extremely humbling. Now, I know, when you think of JP, humble is not the first word that comes to mind... Listen, however to what he says about how he feels about having Ashley in his life, “I can’t say enough how lucky I think I am to marry her. As I told her dad when I asked him for permission, ‘I always thought I would marry my dream girl physically, my soulmate, or my best friend. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I would be able to find all three of them in one person.’”
And Ashley feels the same, “Everyday, I cannot wait to wake up next to JP, and know that I will be in the same place together when we go back to sleep. He is my best friend, my #1 pest, my prince charming, and the highlight of my day... I feel like I am... the luckiest girl for winning his heart.”

Sunday, January 21, 2018

More Romantic than Love-At-First-Sight

Saturday evening, I officiated Kathryn and Zach’s wedding ceremony at the Joule Hotel, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Kathryn and Zach met at the ripe old age of… ten years old. Like you do! You think I’m joking, when I refer to this as old age; I’m not. They probably would have met much earlier, had Zach not arrived at the school Kathryn had been attending since kindergarten, just in time for fifth grade. If only he had known, I’m sure he would have gotten there much quicker…
Now, they didn’t start dating immediately, of course, though they did become friends pretty quickly. Here is how Kathryn describes the subsequent development of their relationship, over the ensuing eight years: “As we grew in age, our friendship strengthened, and we began to develop feelings for each other. Over the years we watched each other date different people, make difficult decisions, and slowly... grow into the adults we are today. We began ‘officially’ dating during the last week of high school, and about three short months later, my resolve fortified by liquid courage, I told Zach that I loved him.”
Even after that, as is often natural for young folks who have a long-distance relationship during college, they practiced a little “catch and release”, in their dating relationship, before they decided to make each other permanent life partners.
Now, it’s not like we get to choose how we meet our mate for life, but Kathryn and Zach find the way their relationship came into being and evolved along the way, to be perfect. As Zach says: “Our story is not a fairy-tale love-at-first-sight story. But I would argue ours is more powerful. The gradual nature of our relationship ensured that the relationship was based on the character and qualities of the other. This can’t be the case in love-at-first-sight situations. I believe loving someone after knowing them for fifteen years, seeing them in their best and worst times, and having the quality-time to become best friends, is more romantic than love-at-first-sight.”
Well, Kathryn and Zach, in that respect, tonight, you have made believers of us all…

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Go with the Flow

Saturday afternoon, I officiated Alana and Colby’s wedding ceremony at Hotel ZaZa, in Houston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay about themselves. When I run across a sentence in such an essay that says, “I’ll never forget the day,” I pay extra close attention to what the person tells me next.
Here is how Colby describes the day he will never forget: “I was struggling with which direction life was taking me, trying to decide between going back to College for a second Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, going to work for Lockheed Martin as a Financial Analyst, or finishing up my law school applications. It was that morning... when my spirituality changed from religion and ritual to going with the flow of life. My mom told me to not fight life, that I would never know which direction life would take me, who I would meet, or what challenges lay ahead.  She told me to go with the flow of life, not fight my love for math and go back to school for Engineering.”
Wow. Is that profound or what? I find it to be, not only profound, but especially meaningful and refreshing, in this highly goal-oriented society, where there seems to be a pressure to always look forward, never look back, and keep climbing the professional ladder regardless of how it feels.
Colby took this approach to his first date with Alana, and immediately found a kindred spirit. Alana describes who set them up, a great yenta in the cloud. No, not the clouds, the cloud: “We are very traditional. We met on We [then] met up... [in person]. We sat on the patio and enjoyed the fun ambiance and beautiful patio with firepits at each table, good drinks... and even better company. We had so much to talk about and were there for a few hours. While the frozen mojitos were pretty tasty, it really was Colby’s easygoing and loving nature, his charming good looks, intelligence and great sense of humor that captured my heart. I couldn’t wait for our second date!”
Now, Alana leaves out how going with the flow may have worked for her and Colby, but for her friends, not so much… Colby picks up the story: “At 11 Alana looked down at her phone and had missed around 100 text messages from her friends asking where she was! They were concerned about online dating, and that she hadn’t gotten back to them!”
It wasn’t long before Colby knew this was the one, who could go with the flow with him, long term: “I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Alana, when I couldn’t imagine opening my eyes and not seeing her next to me every morning. She is my best friend, soul mate, lover, and adventurer. Life is chaotic, always moving in a million directions at a million miles an hour, but I know we’ll move in them together, through the ups and downs, and conquer them together.”
And Alana, cites this other guy who gave her the final proof that she had made the right decision. You may have heard of this other guy, who went by his first name only, Harvey. And, keep in mind, most of what Alana describes here, Colby only told her later: “I know he will support me through anything, and recent Hurricane Harvey is proof. He walked me to work through the flood waters, filled with fire ants and sewage water, walking ahead of me to make sure I didn’t fall through an open uncovered manhole into the sewers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle style.”
Well, that gives a whole new meaning to, “going with the flow,” doesn’t it?! All that’s left for me to say is, cowabunga, let’s get to those vows!

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Saturday morning, I officiated Gia and Bayo’s Jewish-Muslim wedding ceremony, at Brenner’s Restaurant, in Houston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One of the most beautiful things about weddings is that there are no right ways or wrong ways to celebrate this occasion. Every couple is different, and they may make different decisions and choices, depending on any number of variables. In interfaith and intercultural weddings, specifically, some couples choose to build a ceremony that minimizes and deemphasizes their differences, while other couples choose to highlight their differences, and celebrate them.
Now, if you know anything about Gia and Bayo, you know what choice they would gravitate towards. They both come from interfaith and intercultural families themselves, after all. This figured into their relationship before they even met. As Bayo says, “I was curious about her Jewish-Italian heritage because it reminded me of stories my dad told of the ancient Roman Empire and the journey of the Israelites from Egypt.”
And, whatever differences they had, they were very much in sync from the start. Gia says, “I knew after talking with him that we shared the things that mattered most, and our values and ideals were so similar. We both value family, spirituality, compassion, and optimism. We both love adventure… and are very determined to reach our goals. These things are so important to share with your partner…”
And Bayo acknowledges that, though he “was captivated by her beauty and brain”, what sealed the deal for him was much deeper. He saw in Gia, “a woman of high moral standing. In my culture, good morals, trump material things. My mom always told me her prayer, was for ‘the Lord to bless me with a good woman.’ I believe she can consider her prayers answered, because Gia is the definition of a good woman.”
Once you have established that you share what is most important, values, morals and character, you can use your different characteristics to enhance your relationship. A Jew and a Muslim, for instance, can bond not despite, but because they begin their relationship during the holy month of Ramadan. As Gia tells us, “Bayo and I started dating during Ramadan… We would meet in the evening after sundown during the non-fasting period of Ramadan. Ramadan teaches Muslims how to practice self-discipline, self-control, and empathy for others who are less fortunate… Although I was not observing Ramadan with Bayo, my respect for his practices… taught me these values as well…”
Bayo shares his recollections from that time: “Gia was quite supportive and respectful of my religious beliefs and practices during the entire period.” He adds what will surprise no one who knows anything about Jews’ and Italians’ eating practices,” She sometimes brought additional refreshment to supplement my meals for added nourishment.” By the time Ramadan came to a close, Bayo says, “It felt like we had known each other far longer than a month… Our relationship grew from there… We began to see each other more often, and grew fond of each other… I soon realized that I could trust her with my vulnerabilities as a lonely immigrant trying to find his path and place in the land of the free.”
I recently heard a moving interview with Julie Lythcott-Haims, who talked about her upbringing and her journey growing up in American society, straddling different cultures and identities. Her voice cracking, she summed up what she felt was at the root of many of our challenges today, in this land of the free: “We are suffering from a lack of compassion.” It is in this context, that Gia and Bayo give me great hope, because the strength of their relationship lies in the compassion their faiths taught them, the compassion their families instilled in them, and their shared compassion for others. Let us heed their call, and follow their call, and follow their example.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Lovin’ You

Saturday afternoon, I officiated Heather and Octavio’s wedding ceremony at Hotel Mazarin, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
I ask every person I marry to write an essay about themselves. This enables me to get to know them better, and shape their entire ceremony. And their words also serve as the raw material for these personal remarks.

I can’t tell you how much I loved reading Heather and Octavio’s essays. They are so evocative and rich, and you can really feel the depth of their love for each other. With such beautiful writing, remarks like these almost write themselves.

Listen to Heather:
“I want to marry Octavio because I can’t imagine the rest of my life without him. After eight years, I feel like I know him as well as I know myself... He’s extremely caring, patient, honest, hard-working, and romantic.
He’s helped me be more patient, understanding, strong, and open to new experiences and cultures. We’ve both been ready to get married for at least a few years now.”
And listen to Octavio:

“I feel lucky and blessed to have her in my life, and have the opportunity to call her my wife and start a family together is a dream come true.
She’s honest, funny, and beautiful, but most important, she has a big heart, not just for me or her family, but her friends, co-workers, and any person who she thinks needs help.
Para dios, nos casamos la primera vez que estuvimos juntos. In the eyes of God, we have been married from the first time we met. To love her is easy, marrying her is going to be one of the happiest days of my life.”
Wow. See what I mean. Their writing is almost like poetry!
What Heather and Octavio say about each other, coupled with that phrase Octavio used, “To love her is easy,” reminded me of one of the most unique songs of my childhood, “Lovin’ You”. You owe it to yourself to go back and watch it on YouTube. When I did, I said to myself, this is exactly what Heather and Octavio’s love story is all about!
The song was written by another interfaith and intercultural couple, Minnie Riperton and Richard Rudolph, and produced by Rudolph and a young man named Stevie Wonder.
To millennials, like Heather and Octavio, Minnie and Richard’s claim to fame would be that they are the parents of the great comedienne, Maya Rudolph. In fact, baby Maya’s name is in the unedited version, because mom was trying to calm her.
“Lovin’ you is easy cause you're beautiful... Lovin’ you is more than just a dream come true. And everything I do, is out of loving you...
No one else can make me feel the colors that you bring. Stay with me while we grow old, and we will live each day in spring time.
Cause lovin’ you has made my life so beautiful. And every day of my life, is filled with lovin’ you...”
Heather and Octavio, may every day of your lives be, indeed, be a dream come true, filled with mutual love.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why Not?

Saturday afternoon, Rev. Grady Roe and I co-officiated Shelby and Alex’s wedding ceremony at Ma Maison in Dripping Springs, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
When I was thinking about how Shelby and Alex have lived their lives, as individuals and as a couple, I was reminded of the well-known saying of Robert F. Kennedy, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
I don’t know if RFK, who was a great friend of the Jews, knew this, but he was channeling a very Jewish sentiment. After all, the answer to the question, “Why do Jews always answer a question with a question,” is just that, “Why not?” Seriously, though, there is something quintessentially American about the willingness to push the envelope. It might be the most pronounced marker in our cultural DNA.
We see this in Alex, who out of the three choices available to Jewish children, doctor, lawyer or accountant, entered college to pursue that money-making juggernaut, film... But we also see it, perhaps because his parents were wise enough to let him learn and develop his own ideas, in how he adjusted course and chose marketing, allowing him to continue pursuing his passion for creativity in a very practical fashion.
We see this in Shelby, who coming from a family of lawyers, naturally vowed she would never be one... She opened up to this idea, when she discovered she had a knack for the law. Still she kept her options open by studying business too, and working in the business world for a little while, which solidified her passion for the world of law. 
Where we really see it, though, is in Shelby and Alex’s love story. Because Alex had a “Why not?” attitude when he moved out to California to pursue what looked like a great professional opportunity. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out. (Spoiler alert: Something else did…) Now, knowing he was about to return to New England, dating a Pepperdine student was a little risky, all things being equal. As Alex says, “Before Shelby and I met, I was apprehensive to even go on a date, because I knew I would be moving back to the northeast so soon. It took some convincing… We went on a date, and then another date, and another… We had such great chemistry right off the bat. We couldn’t stop spending all of our free time together… We both knew that what we had was something different, something special.”
Shelby poignantly talks about her feelings when Alex left California, “When Alex moved 6 weeks later I was crushed, because I had developed strong feelings for him and I thought I might never see him again… After he moved, we talked to each other all-day every day… I went to visit him in Boston for New Year’s Eve and I think that’s really when we both realized how special this was… After I graduated, I moved to Boston to be with him. This was a risky move… However, I had a gut instinct that this was the person that I was going to marry…” If you are listening to this, you know the rest of the story.
There is a great lesson here for all of us, in life and love. Objectively, at many different times in our lives, there is a strong argument to just go with the flow. No one could have argued with Shelby and Alex had they, as individuals and as a couple, chosen not to heed that advice when it seemed that the odds were stacked against them. Happily, they did, deciding to just give their relationship a chance and see where it went. In each and every one of the pivotal moments in their relationship, they said to themselves and to the world, “Why not?”