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.