Sunday, September 23, 2018

More than Worth It

Saturday evening, I officiated Nicole and Harlan’s wedding ceremony, at Latrobe's on Royal, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Friends, our shared traditions embrace lifelong learning, and learning from everyone. So, whenever I officiate a wedding, I ask myself, this couple being unique individuals, what can I learn from them, what are they, consciously or maybe even unconsciously, teaching me, and indeed us? So, I ask each person I marry to write an autobiographical essay to help me answer just that question.

Nicole and Harlan’s essays were strikingly different, not in content, so much as in form. Harlan’s essay is very orderly and sequential. It’s divided into five short paragraphs, corresponding to the five points I ask each couple to address. It’s almost like this physician used to write code for a living... Nicole’s essay is more free form, stream-of-consciousness-like.

However, taken together, I found their essays to be a fascinating meditation on marriage as a vehicle to a life of greater meaning. In that sense, Nicole’s description of Harlan’s future plans at one point can be deceptive: “Harlan had been telling me that he never wanted to get married - to anyone - and he wanted to live alone in a trailer on the beach and surf and read books.” Lest you think I she is making this up, allow me to quote Harlan: “I assumed I would be a bachelor, probably a reclusive one, reading and living near a beach.”

Now, though there is some humor in this, Harlan touches upon a great truth. There IS a tension in marriage, as there is in any relationship, but more so. Marriage does mean sacrificing a little bit of yourself, your autonomy, your independence. Ignoring this is not a great recipe for a successful marriage. However, there is a reason that every hero myth, every origin story of religions and of nations contains sacrifice at its heart. It is good for the soul.

And so, when Harlan adds, after discussing his original plans for hermitage, four words, “Then I met Nicole,” you can sense that this origin story will be heading in a very different direction. Not surprisingly, here’s what Harlan says next: “The more I learned about her, the more I cared about her, and I eventually fell in love... Trading my independence for a real relationship and commitment... was more than worth it, because she loved me so much.”

Nicole picks up the story, with words prominently featured in every romance novel and every bodice ripper, “So, I moved to North Dakota.” Wait, what?! Seriously, though, with their plans for marriage set, and with their medical careers still developing, Nicole and Harlan were set for a long engagement. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the beautiful thing about marriage: You get to do you. There are many different ways to get it right.

However, as Nicole spent that year on the frozen tundra of the Dakotas, with Harlan back in sunny California, they reflected on an important truth. Nicole says, they, “decided that it was better not to wait.” Glib as it may sound, sometimes you just realize that life is too short and too precious. This is not true of every marriage, but when you have committed to marriage as a vehicle for a deeply meaningful life, as Nicole and Harlan did, this becomes evident pretty quickly.

When that happens, it makes sense to get to it. As Harlan says, “I cannot imagine my life without Nicole. I want to share my life with her, and I know it is more meaningful because of her. Marrying her is my way of confirming my commitment to her. It... is a symbolic gesture to her to show how much I love her and that no matter what happens I want us to be together for the rest of our lives.”

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Play Ball!

Saturday evening, I officiated Kaylea and Jack’s wedding ceremony, at the Four Seasons Dallas at Las Colinas, in Irving, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Baseball has not only played a large part in Jack’s family’s life, it was key to Kaylea and Jack coming together, in the first place. Listen to Jack: “I was at a party where some of my baseball teammates lived, standing in the doorway when I looked up and saw the most beautiful girl I had ever laid my eyes on. Her smile was something I would never forget. We ended up talking for just a few minutes before she had to leave, but I knew I wanted to get to know this girl.”

Wow. Now, I didn’t grow up in a baseball playing country, but I think that one might say that Kaylea hit a home run.

Kaylea seemed no less smitten: “I remember that first time I laid eyes on him. My girlfriend invited me to a party at ‘the baseball house’ and there was this extremely good-looking man, with the most amazing dimples and smile, in the doorway, just standing there by himself. My friend had left me at this point and so Jack and I started talking and really HIT it off.”

Baseball and marriage have more to do with each other, than you might think. In fact, one sociologist has posited that more baseball in a region correlates with higher chances of staying married! The region with the most baseball teams and lowest level of divorce? The Northeast, where Kaylea and Jack live!

BTW, how long have Kaylea and Jack been together, now that they are going up to the relationship major leagues? Jack tells us, “We have now been together for 9 exciting years.” That’s right, 9. You just can’t make this up!

Now, you may think that my allusion to minors and majors is just a turn of phrase. Not so. In baseball, perhaps more than in any other sport, you need to learn and grow, regardless of how much talent or innate giftedness you think you may have. Kaylea and Jack know that. Kaylea pointedly says that they didn’t just mark time in their relationship, rather, “9 years we have also just been able to grow with one another.”

Jack elaborates on this: “We've had so many great experiences we have shared together. We have also shared difficult times together. It's the tough times, I feel, that made our relationship that much stronger.”

This is such an important truth. Sure, everyone wants to win every day. No one sets out in spring training not wanting to make it to the World Series. But, even the best team, which at this wedding is the Pirates, doesn’t win every game, and arguably you learn and grow from the games you lose, as much you do from the games you win.

This is why I feel the advice of Rick Gabrielly, in Why Marriage is Just Like Baseball, resonates, “In reality maybe we should look at each game (each day of marriage) as an opportunity. An opportunity to play on a team. To be in the game. To enjoy the experience for just that. A chance to play the game we love... To be a part of something bigger than ourselves... Some days you win, some days you lose, but you always want to play again.”
With due respect to Rick, Kaylea makes it sound more romantic, “Words cannot express how excited I am to marry Jack. He is my best friend, my soulmate, and the love of my life. I can't wait to see what the future holds. I know it will be great, because I will have Jack by my side.” And Jack is no slouch either when he says: “I can't wait to see what the world brings us, but I know having my beautiful bride next to me will make me the happiest man alive.”

Well, Kaylea and Jack, all that’s left for me to say, before you do some of the talking, is that immortal phrase, usually obscured by a protective face mask, “Play ball...”

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Heart and Soul

Saturday evening, I officiated Angeline and Justin’s wedding ceremony at the Emerald at Queensridge, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Clark County government officials were recently confronted with a true problem, the kind that bedevils local governments, and keeps county executives awake at night. You might think it was a lack of affordable housing or the plight of low income workers, or gambling addictions due to Las Vegas’ major industry. Of course, if you thought that, you would be a fool.

No; the problem the wrestled with was much more serious. Sure, they said to themselves, we have a number of marriage license offices, even one on the Strip that is open seven days a week. That means, though, and I don’t mean to bring up such an upsetting issue at such a joyous occasion, that couples flying in to Las Vegas who want to get married, have to leave the airport!

So, Clark County’s government officials opened a new pop up marriage license office at McCarran International Airport, and of course, they put it at baggage claim. USA Today did caution, “Keep in mind that getting a marriage license doesn’t mean you’ll be legally married. You’ll still need to find Elvis or another legally authorized person to perform a proper marriage ceremony.” Still, I would not entirely dismiss the rumors that Lynn Goya, the Clark County Clerk, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, you might be asking yourself, did he think of using that story because it inherently has something to do with Angeline and Justin, or did he just have that one chambered for his next Las Vegas wedding? To that I would say, shame on you. I will show you how it is all connected.

See, you need to remember that Vegas, in the eyes of most of us, is the Strip, weddings in the backseat of the pink Cadillac, and the first and what should have been the only Hangover movie. To the real people of Las Vegas, though, there is actually a real city that they live in, work in, play in, and fall in love in, just like Angeline and Justin did.

In fact, they met in what might seem to outsiders the very antithesis of the Strip, the university lecture hall. That’s right, they came to UNLV to study, or at least that is what they told their very skeptical families…

As Angeline tells us, “I sat behind him in class because I thought he was pretty cute!” That was a key time in Angeline’s life; it was anything but the kind of carefree existence we associate with this city. “The semester I met him was my first semester back… I had an unfortunate medical issue where I was in and out of the hospital… for… months… I was quite possibly the most depressed I had ever been in my life. I felt like I wasn’t living… like I wasn’t myself anymore.”

Enter Justin. “I felt a sense of happiness that I had not felt for a very long time. He was funny and smart, and knew what to say to make me laugh. As the semester went on, we grew closer and began to date. It was on those dates that I felt like I finally got back a part of me that I thought I had lost for good. Justin made me feel alive again, and it ultimately felt like he truly saved my life.”


Justin describes the genesis and the evolution of their relationship, um, well, differently, shall we say, “We started dating and somewhere along the way, before we even dated, my exact thought was: ‘Oh [expletive deleted], I’m going to end up marrying this girl. Oh, well, it's about damn time.’” This kind of statement, as well as the next, is music to any County Clerk’s ears, here in the Great State of Nevada: “I decided I would like to keep her around permanently, as she was awesome.”

Seriously, though, listen to what he says about why he wants to spend the rest of his life with her: “When I am with her, I can do anything. She helps me be the person I want to be… I know I never want her to go away… I know that she is the best thing that ever happened to me. I know that I love her.” 

And, Angeline adds her two cents, “It’s his dedication to not only my happiness, but to my family as well, that makes me confident that he is the one I want to spend my life with… I know deep down in my heart that he is the man I am meant to be with, and I can only hope that I can bring him the same happiness he has brought me.” And, she too says something that would make our friend, Lynn Goya, Clark County Clerk, very excited, “I don’t want to spend another moment where I am not fully committed to him, heart and soul, as his wife.”