Monday, September 4, 2023

No Matter What May Come

On Sunday, I officiated Dina and Will’s wedding ceremony at the Lizton Lodge in Lizton, Indiana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

One of the reasons I have enjoyed working with Dina and William is that they are, and nowadays (as opposed to say the 1980s) this term is viewed as positive, hopeless nerds, and so am I. As a result, we think very deeply about words concepts, and feelings others might not and have a particular self-awareness that not everyone possesses. 

None of us decide how we will meet our soulmate, and certainly none of us can decide when. Still, every now and then, we all run across the couple who makes us do what the West Africans call, le tchip. We suck our breath in through our teeth. Since that couple has been fortunate enough to not really experience any negatives in life, we ruefully wonder what will happen when they do, because make no mistake, we all do.

Not Dina and William. They each have had experiences in life, as individuals and as a couple, that have pained them and challenged them, that have built them up. You can see this in how William describes the genesis and development of their relationship. There is something both almost mystical, as well as practical in his words:

“I probably knew I wanted to be with Dina before she even knew my name. It started with an attraction from across the room, but quickly blossomed into a more balanced, refreshing relationship than I’d ever thought possible. Over our first few months, we spent as much time together as we could. As I learned more and more about her, I grew nothing but more certain that I was with someone I could see myself with for the rest of my life. We provided strengths where the other had weaknesses and introduced each other to the different things we loved and were passionate about. We began developing a sense of trust and supportiveness that would eventually prove a fundamental pillar of our partnership.”

It is interesting that he uses that word, partnership. Dina says, “When I met William, I learned how it felt to be a partner instead of a girlfriend. He treated me with respect and simply enjoyed being with me - especially when I was being the weird me that I’d felt the need to hide for so long. He sang along to Disney with me, he wanted to spend the afternoon at bookstores (mostly because that’s what I wanted to do), he encouraged me to do puzzles and experiment with crafts I’d set aside for a long time. I felt special and comfortable in my own skin and could once again put down some of the weight I’d forced myself to carry wherever I went.”

Wow. I find that so deep. THAT is what an ideal relationship is really all about. It is giving the other person the ability, the permission, the support, to put down some of the weight we are carrying and to be our real selves.

This is what William has done for Dina: “When we started dating, I still had my walls up. It took some tears and some time to bring them down, but William was there for me every step of the way, reliably my steadfast shoulder to cry on. His patience, understanding and compassion are why I fell in love with him. His support when support wasn’t the easiest option is what made me certain I wanted to spend my life with him as my partner, my Dungeon Master and my best friend.”

This is what Dina has done for William: “It brings me peace knowing I will always be able to count on her no matter what may come… We only continued to grow stronger together. I had found happiness and love I hadn’t been looking for or expected ever to find… It both frightens and heartens me how many little things had to go right for us to end up together, but not a day goes by that I am not thankful that whatever needed to happen to bring us together, happened.”


On Thursday, 8/31, I officiated Leili and Ryon’s wedding ceremony at the Reflections Venue and Gardens in Plano, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

One of the most important precepts in the Abrahamic religions is what we call in Hebrew, hakarat hatov. Now, this literally translates as recognition of good, but really means a sense of gratitude. 

This precept is so important that the Bible extends it even to inanimate objects. Moses, for instance, is told to send Aaron to strike the Nile to elicit a couple of the plagues rather than doing it himself because the Nile hid and saved him when he was a baby.

Truth be told, the American psyche militates against this idea. We are told that in our society, all evidence to the contrary, if you work hard and play by the rules, you will, in almost mathematical fashion, succeed. And if you buy that, I have a great bridge to sell you too… Leili and Ryon aren’t fooled by this, though. They recognize their good fortune.

In fairness, it is a little easier in their case not to take their coming together for granted. After all, what are the odds of a Trinidadian Grenadian Canadian soccer playing financier and an Iranian Mexican Texan, sometime, Californian social justice practitioner not only meeting each other, but finding so much in common and falling in love. 

It is this type of gratitude for what fate has wrought upon you that makes not just the exciting parts of life, oh, I don’t know, like going to Babe’s Chicken, but also the seemingly mundane parts of life richer and more meaningful. 

Indeed, Leili and Ryon explicitly emphasize that they not only enjoy the opportunity “to explore the world and have adventures with each other but they also love their evenings at home, cooking dinner together, watching movies and showing each other TikTok videos - life is exactly what they both want for themselves!”

And the recognition of your good fortune forms the best type of launching pad for the vital work that is marriage. As Leili and Ryon say, “What you see before you today is the result of three and a half years of two individuals committed to doing the work of creating the relationship they want for themselves. These three and a half years have provided them the opportunities to evolve into more healed versions of themselves. And they know that work never ends.”

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Turn the Tide

On Saturday, I officiated Sam and Nate’s wedding ceremony on the Glacier Park Lodge's back lawn, overlooking Dancing Lady Mountain, in East Glacier Park, Montana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Sam’s initial impression of Nate was not promising: She thought he was loud and obnoxious and thought they would never be close. Nate acknowledges that she was right and that consequently they quickly became frenemies.

Now, if you have picked up on the fact that that is not where their relationship remained, congratulations, Sherlock; we are after all at their wedding. Indeed, Nate took a famous saying to heart, if you ever get a second chance in life, you’ve got to go all the way. 

That summer, due to a work schedule quirk at both of their places of employment, they found themselves at Friday happy hour together early, every other week, waiting for the rest of their friends to get off work. This gave them the chance to really get to know each other. Once Sam got to know the real Nate, she liked what she saw. It took Nate a couple of months to really pick up on the fact that the tides had turned, but once he did, it was smooth sailing from there. 

What a fascinating journey these two had just getting to the point where their relationship began. To me the lessons are simple. We don’t choose how we fall in love. For the most part, love, at first sight, is just a figment of Hollywood rom-com imagination. Relationships that are worth it involve stepping on each other’s toes. Relationships that go the distance are the ones in which we deal with some challenges along the way. Relationships that last are ones in which we allow each other to evolve.

It is this type of love that causes Nate to say that Sam makes him a better person. It is this type of love that causes Sam to say she couldn’t imagine a day without Nate. It is this type of relationship that brings Nate and Sam to each say that they want to spend the rest of their lives with each other and, of course, with their pup Lincoln.

Sunday, August 13, 2023


In July, I officiated Kelly and Michael’s wedding ceremony at The Astorian in Houston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Michael says that the genesis of his meeting Kelly was at his 32nd birthday party: “A friend of mine asked me a few questions about my love life and future goals… She asked me if I would be interested in meeting one of her friends… We ended up meeting a few weeks later at a gender reveal.” Michael adds, with an air of intrigue, “I almost didn’t go to the gender reveal, but my friend was persistent.” 

Of course, on Kelly’s side, there was no hesitancy about attending, because said friend, Jacque, had said the magic words that melt every woman’s heart when she described Michael: “Michael Samuels… loves Disney, cruises, and Disney cruises.” Though their interactions at the party were halting, numbers were exchanged, before Michael proceeded to his next party. (I have no idea if it was Disney-themed.) 

Kelly says that things proceeded quickly after that: “Three days later we went on our first date to Little Woodrow’s. We talked for hours. I remember thinking Michael was so cute and interesting. We extended our date by getting burgers across the street. The night ended with a first kiss and plans to see each other the following evening. We went out three nights in a row.” By that point, Michael says, he was completely enamored. 

Now, I always ask people why they want to get married and why now. Michael’s answer? “Because she told me.” That’s not the whole answer, but that does make it funnier. Seriously, though, for Michael, it’s simple: “I love Kelly, she makes me better, and I can’t imagine a life without her.”

The teacher, surprise, is slightly more verbose. Here is what Kelly says: “I am so excited to be married because I want a partner to enjoy my life with. I want someone that I can be my authentic self around and for my partner to be able to be his authentic self too. I desire someone that makes life more enjoyable and sees the world with rose-colored glasses. I want to enjoy the highs of life, feel supported during my lows, and support my partner whenever he is experiencing his lows. And Michael is that man!”

Kelly and Michael, I think there is one word there that really describes the ideal marriage: authentic. The thing is that that word, and I think everyone here will agree with me, also describes each of you, individually and as a couple. Thank you for showing us how it is done, and for making it look effortless. May you continue to be blessed with authenticity, from this day forward.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Good Fortune

Last Saturday, I officiated Hope and Henry’s wedding ceremony at Hall on Dragon in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Before I even talk to a couple about marrying them, I ask them to tell me about themselves, how they met, and what happened since. Not to make this about me, but one of the best things about asking these types of questions, and working with couples like Hope and Henry, is that they make me feel young. 

When speaking to Hope and Henry, though, I got to really feel young, because Hope told me, “Henry and I met at Greenhill School in Addison, Texas when we were 10 years old.” Now, Henry does clarify that they didn’t start dating in the 5th grade, which is good because this might be the one thing in which I am conservative, I’m not sure what dating in the 5th grade even means.

In fact, Henry says, “We did not become good friends until high school. Over time, I began to realize that I didn't just appreciate Hope as a friend but as someone I wanted to share my whole life with.” Hope clarifies that by saying, “We started dating during our final year of high school and we have been together ever since, even through four years of separate colleges.” 

How incredible is that? It’s not that you can plan your life this way. Sometimes it just happens, but how wonderful for Hope and Henry that it did for them. What incredibly amazing good fortune. It takes hard work too, though, to make sure that you complement and balance the other person out.

As Hope says, “Henry is my absolute best friend. He is the tall to my short, the soft-spoken to my verbosity, and the little-known sass to my well-known sass. He is my support system and my comfort in life.” 

Once you have that, it’s really not a question of if, but when. Here Hope and Henry are both rather practical. Henry says, “Getting married now is the right time because we are both settled in our careers, and we have lived together long enough to know we enjoy spending every day together.”

Hope agrees, but, of course, invokes the law: “I want to get married to Henry so that we can celebrate our love and can cement a legal connection… We both have happy and stable lives and careers, we finally feel like we have time and are in a headspace to enjoy a celebration about us.”

A Heavenly Algorithm

Last Friday I officiated Daisy and Samuel’s trilingual wedding ceremony at The Springs (the Ranch) in Aubrey, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Samuel says this about the genesis of this relationship: “Daisy and I met on Facebook Dating. We spoke back and forth for a few weeks and then made plans to meet. Unfortunately, Daisy canceled on me twice, which, of course, I still give her a playful hard time about to this day.”

Now, in a way, the genesis of their relationship is actually before that. Check out this almost mystical statement from Daisy: “As cheesy as it sounds, before I met Samuel, I prayed a lot for him. I prayed that I would find an honest, caring, sweet, loving man. A man that would not only be my partner but my best friend.” Wow.

Daisy describes their first date, and again there is something almost mystical about her description: “We finally agreed to meet… It was after a snowstorm. He was so sweet, making sure I was okay to drive. I've never been so nervous when meeting someone but with him it was different. So different that I was literally shaking when handing him something. Once we sat down and started chatting my nervousness went out the door. Samuel has the ability to make everyone feel calm. I felt like I knew him for a long time.”

Daisy’s excitement which turned into calm taps into a Jewish mystical tradition. The Ancient Rabbis believed that while we are still embryos, a heavenly voice proclaims who we will marry. We then wander the world in search of that person. Maybe if there was Facebook Dating 2,000 years ago, they would have called it a heavenly algorithm. And so, when we meet our soulmate, we may think that this is just random, but really we are predestined to meet.  

Samuel reiterates this very idea: “I believe with all honesty that Daisy is my other half. Every time we are together, I feel comfortable, and I can always be myself. She is so beautiful inside and out. She is determined, hard-working, honest, and loving. There has never been another that I’ve felt so deeply for. I know she is the one for me and the one I want to spend my life with. I can’t imagine a better time to make that a real thing.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

There Really Isn’t Anything Else to Wait For

In June, I officiated Angeline and Ben’s wedding ceremony at Arlington Hall in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

One thing I learned from Angeline’s description of the genesis of her relationship with Ben is that Ben and I share a trait that is apparently abnormal: “Ben and I met during the height of the pandemic, which meant a lot of outdoor dates early on and a lot of texting. I remember thinking it was a bit unusual for someone to text in complete sentences with punctuation and capitalization.”

I did not realize that texting in full sentences and with punctuation was weird until Angeline pointed this out! I have confirmed with her, though, that he, at least does not include any citations or footnotes in his texts, which I have been known to include…

Now one of the things critics of interfaith and intercultural relationships point to are differences that could be supposedly insurmountable. Angeline says that from the very start, it was the very opposite for her and Ben: “Ben invited me for coffee at Klyde Warren Park… We walked around the downtown area… talking and getting to know each other. I very distinctly remember not even five minutes into the walk, thinking that Ben felt so similar to myself, familiar in a way that I don’t remember ever feeling before when first meeting someone. 

I don’t know if it was how he phrased things or how he answered questions but that was my overwhelming first impression. In the way that I tend to overthink, I even wondered a few times early in our relationship whether us being so similar would be a problem (supposedly, opposites attract, etc.), but I’m glad I ignored that.”

I’m a little amused when people describe their first date differently, or at least emphasize different aspects of that first date, and this is one of those cases. Listen to Ben’s description: “The plan was to meet in Klyde Warren Park… and grab coffee from one of the food trucks. We met as planned, but then things appeared to be going downhill rather quickly. Half of the park was being fenced off for some sort of private event. Because of the closure, the usual coffee vendors were gone. And the remaining half of the park was hosting some sort of protest. I like things that go according to plan, and this was not going according to plan.

We started walking away from the park, without a destination in mind exactly. We didn’t really talk about anything in particular – a bit about ourselves, the weirdness of the past few months, the quirkiness of Dallas architecture. And as we wandered around downtown, a funny thing happened. I stopped caring that our plan was disrupted. I was comfortable with Angeline in a way that I hadn’t expected and couldn’t explain. So, there were more dates and more walks, and gradually the world started returning to something like normal. But even when things were going according to plan, I was always happier when I was with Angeline.”

As their relationship progressed, Angeline and Ben found the differences between them, and these have only enhanced their relationship. Angeline says, “I have known Ben now for a little over two years. Our relationship has been comfortable and easy, loving and fun. Ben is incredibly considerate and kind and always knows the right things to say when I am stressed or tired. He is passionate about his work and it is a joy to hear him talk about his research. He gives amazing hugs. At the risk of sounding too cliched or sappy, it really does feel like we are two halves of a whole or two puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly. 

And now that I know him better, I can see our differences in addition to our similarities. Ben is more of a planner and is more organized. I tend to procrastinate more. Ben is much better at work-life balance and keeping work at work, which is something I am learning from him. I am very excited to get married and to continue our lives together; I think we will make an amazing team.”

And Ben says, “Several people have told us that we have very similar personalities. That’s true, to an extent, but we also complement each other. Angeline is thoughtful, curious, and kind. But more importantly, when I get too fixed on a plan that isn’t working, she reminds me that it’s ok to adjust, and sometimes even to wander. At this point, I simply couldn’t imagine not marrying her. Life always has challenges, but I’m also sure that we’ll be better at overcoming them together. I can already see that Angeline makes me a better version of myself… There really isn’t anything else to wait for.”