Sunday, March 31, 2019

Extraordinarily Lucky

Saturday evening, Reverend Barron Bell and I co-officiated Renee and Jake’s wedding ceremony, at Parker Manor, in Weatherford, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I have a split professional personality. I officiate interfaith weddings, and I work for a nonprofit charged with ending homelessness. In the latter role, I spend much time thinking about the idea of luck and privilege, and recognizing that you have it.

This is why I love what Jake says about you, his family and friends: “I have lived an extraordinarily lucky and blessed life. (I have) amazing friends and (a) loving family. I have so so much to be thankful for. (Pause for affect) Actually… so do they, because I am pretty great myself.”
Renee recognizes how lucky and blessed she is too. I got to see this with my own eyes, since the first time I met Renee and Jake in the flesh, as opposed to by FaceTime, Renee’s parents joined us too. You could tell from watching and listening to Renee, how appreciative she was of her parents, and how much she values them and her family.

Recognizing your privilege and your luck in life is tremendously important in any relationship, but especially in marriage. Marriage is the most intense relationship we have, and raising a family makes it only more intense, especially if your idea of a family is Renee’s. I am not making this up; here is what she wrote: “I can’t wait to be his wife and have 4 kids and a ranch with horses and cows.” Jake, I don’t know if her not mentioning the number of each animal is good or bad news. I won’t be around to find out… You will!

Fortunately, Renee and Jake recognize the privilege and luck they have in having found each other, and have formed their unique relationship that today they take to the next step. To wit, Jake says, “I love Renee. She is beautiful, smart, fun, kind, and generous. She inspires me and makes me better every day. She’s the life of every party, even though she always gets there late.”

And Renee says, “He can always turn my frown upside down. He has always been there for me. He supports me, teaches me, encourages me, and most importantly, loves me with all of his heart.”

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Experience Every Moment

Sunday evening, Reverend Ernest Myers and I co-officiated Lindsay and CJ’s wedding ceremony, at The Springs McKinney, in Anna, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Something Lindsay wrote really caught my eye. I think she expresses a feeling, that is not at all uncommon: “I have always been one of those people who feared ‘adulting’ and growing up because there is no way for me to predict what will happen.” 

Lindsay not only highlights this challenge, however; she addresses it too: “Knowing that I will get to be with CJ for the rest of the life, I am excited for the unknown because I know that I will get to experience every moment with my partner, my soul mate, my best friend – my husband.”

That phrase, “experience every moment,” reminded me of something CJ, in turn, wrote about Lindsay, “It has been amazing experiencing life with her. She is everything I have ever wanted in a partner. The years we have been together have only strengthened my belief she is the only person for me.”

Lindsay and CJ touch upon something really deep here. The best way to address the feeling of precariousness that today’s world sometimes induces is to slow down a little. Live a little more in the present. 

This is the basic idea at the core of Curtis Mayfield’s immortal song, It’s Alright: “It's all right, have a good time… We're gonna move it slow… When you move it slow, it sounds like more…” Curtis assures us, “When you wake up early in the morning, feelin' sad like so many of us do, hum a little soul, make life your goal, and surely something's got to come to you… It's all right, have a good time…”

And Lindsay and CJ speak to the fact that one of the best ways of doing just that is when you find that perfect person to experience life in the present with you.

Old Curtis agrees, so he ends his song making that exact point: “Someday I'll find me a woman, who will love and treat me real nice, then my woe's got to go, and my love, she will know, from morning, noon and night… It's all right, have a good time… now give yourselves a chance…”

That’s why Lindsay says, “Being with CJ makes me a better person… I used to be so cynical about love, but I know now that real love really does exist… When I am with him, no matter where we are or what we are doing, I am home…”

That’s why CJ says, “I can’t imagine my future without her… I am ecstatic knowing I get to spend the rest of my life with my soul mate, and I cannot wait to tackle the challenges of life together as a team of husband and wife. I want to be the best husband I can possibly be to cherish and support Lindsay for the rest of our lives together as a couple.”

Strong Foundation

Saturday evening, I officiated Natalie and Corey’s wedding ceremony, at the Warwick Melrose Hotel, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

For our wedding, twenty five years ago, we still received a few telegrams. Note to my fellow non-millennials: You may need to explain to the Millennial and Generation Z guests what those are, during the reception. Anyway, do you know what the classic Jewish parent telegram says? Start worrying now. Stop. Details to follow. Stop. Of course, when I tell this to Catholics, they tell me that is the Catholic parent telegram. 

Now, I believe that one of the last things Natalie and Corey’s parents need to do is worry about these two. Why do I say that? Allow me to elaborate. 

Here is what Natalie says: “I am in love, planning a wedding, moving in with Corey, and I’ve never felt more relaxed… I think it’s a good start. (Everyone said it would be stressful… They don’t know him like I do.)”  How often do you hear that from a bride? Is that cool or what?

This calm that Natalie and Corey have felt with each other has been a theme of their relationship. Corey attests to that, when he says that at the beginning of their relationship: “We found that it was easy to talk with each other and never had any awkward silences.” And Natalie agrees: “I remember feeling like I was talking too much, but he was talking a lot too, and then I realized that I just felt so comfortable.”

And this was not just a fleeting situation. It has manifested itself so deeply, that Corey says, “Natalie gets me like no other person has or ever will.” Natalie agrees, when she says, “It just works, it’s effortless to be with him.”

And what is that made them feel so comfortable? What is that made this wedding feel stress free? Interact with them for even a short time, and you will know. It is the strength of character both Natalie and Corey possess. As Natalie says, she early on realized that Corey, “was just the kindest, most honest man I had ever known. The strength of his character is definitely one of the reasons I fell in love with him.”

When you realize that strength of character is what really matters, other things can fall into place. This is why Corey says: “I could not see myself marrying anyone but Natalie... I truly now know that Natalie is the only person I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

This is why Natalie says: “I know we will build something very strong together... I know that Corey and I have what it takes to make a strong foundation.”

Monday, March 18, 2019

Happy Every Day

Saturday evening (3.16), Father Alfonse Nazzaro and I co-officiated Anna and Tom’s wedding ceremony, at The Filter Building on White Rock, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Anna and Tom’s story starts back in college. Anna says, “I remember seeing him walk through the door and thinking he was really cute and later in the evening we got to talking…”  Tom similarly recalls, “I do vividly recall seeing Anna standing in the corner of the room when I walked in and her being notably beautiful.”

Now, many stories start this way, and don’t go anywhere. So, what causes some couples to start this way, and at some point say, in the words of Jason Mraz and Meghan Trainor duet, “I wanna be more than friends…”

In Tom and Anna’s case, it might sound prosaic, but I believe it is anything but that. Just listen to Tom: “The day that my love for her really hit home was when we were just lying on the couch at her parents’ house on a Saturday afternoon. I noticed that I was just as happy doing absolutely nothing with her as I had been going out… and being constantly busy with friends in college.”

Love at first sight, if there is such a thing, infatuation, the flying of sparks, the crashing of lightning can be interesting, but that is not what love is all about. True love is being content with just being in each other’s presence, with nary a word spoken.

And what brings about such deep feelings, that make you want to spend the rest of your life with that person? Anna tells us: “I am confident I want to marry Tom because he is a genuinely wonderful person and truly cares about others. That kindness is evident all the time in our relationship because of how he tries to make me happy every day.”

Is it any surprise that Tom says, “I cannot be more thrilled to have the opportunity to get married… and start a life with the woman that I love.” And, perceptively he adds, “She’s way more attractive than me, so I know I have to lock it down soon.” Nuff said!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Make Others Happy

Sunday evening (3.10), I officiated Miriam and Steven’s wedding ceremony, at the Westin Dallas Downtown, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I have every person I marry write an autobiographical essay. Generally, the groom’s essay is not as detailed as the bride’s, certainly not when it comes to feelings. Steven is no regular groom, though. Not only was his essay long and detailed, it touched on some pretty deep ideas.

Check this out: “Before Miriam I did not believe in falling in love. I am a very realistic person and my… (hope) at the time was (to find) someone I like who doesn’t get on my nerves. I am so lucky now too admit how wrong I was and how lucky I am to have never settled…” Wow! Not only did Miriam cause him to fall in love with her; she changed his perception of the very idea of love.

Now, Miriam may not have needed convincing of the very idea of falling in love. Still, she came to their first date, with eyes wide open, prepared for all eventualities. This part may actually make you hungry too: “Steven and I have a lot in common, but a big thing we have in common is food. We both really, really love food. So, it’s only fitting that the night I met Steven for the first time, I told my sister that I would text her in the middle of the date to let her know how it was going and would do so in code words related to pizza toppings – pepperoni meant good, green peppers meant neutral, and anchovies meant bad. Steven immediately earned a rating of 100 pepperonis – and the rest was history…”

What did Miriam do to change Steven’s mind about love? He tells us: “If you took everything in a person that was important to me, sweet, kind, generous, smart, funny, emotionally intelligent, hardworking, trustworthy, understanding and beautiful, she exemplified (it) all.”

And what caused Steven to earn so many cured meats, and to keep that coveted rating? Miriam admits that at that first date his good looks and charm did play a part. However, she quickly discovered that he was, “the most generous and thoughtful person I… ever met. He truly cares about other people and really wants to make others happy.”

What seals the deal for Miriam is this: “We have the same fundamental values, matching visions for our future, and love and respect for each other, and that is what is most important to me.” It is no surprise, therefore, that Steven says, “I’m so lucky to have her in my life and (I) feel so fortunate… (to have) the relationship that we have.”

An Even Better Love Story

Saturday night (3.9), I officiated Jessica and Matthew’s wedding ceremony, at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, in Irving, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Roll back the tape to right before their first date, and you probably would not predict we would end up here tonight. Just listen to Jessica and Matt’s descriptions going in.

Jessica says, “I had been extremely unsuccessful in the dating world, so I had little expectations walking into the coffee shop.” She adds, “I had recently been on a trip to South Africa and loved it, so the fact that he was South African was intriguing. I knew even if the date was bad, I would enjoy the accent.” Talk about damning with faint praise!

Matt recounts how he had ended a relationship, and so he was not interested in, “anything that could resemble a long term relationship.” Despite that, Matt says that they, “seemed to click immediately in the messages that we sent.”

Even after their first date, Matt says, “I had told Jessica that I wanted to keep things casual early on and she agreed.” However, this is where things began to turn, because Matt admits, “the amount of time that we were spending together did not show that this was a casual relationship.” Jessica sums it up well when she says, “By the time we got to New Year’s Eve, despite insisting that we were very casual, it was evident that we had a real connection.”

Ronald Reagan once said, that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Jessica and Matt might agree, that in their case this was true. One bright day when Matt was told by his company that his services were no longer needed, the added coda to that from our government was, “See ya!”

Fortunately, Jessica stepped up to the plate. As Matt says, “Jess did everything that she could to try help me. She offered to let me move in with her since my lease was expiring and sell whatever I had accumulated in the US (she seemed a little too eager to sell all of my stuff) while I tried to figure out what my next step would be.”

Still, leave he had to, and Jessica says, “He left, and our relationship was rather undefined as we figured the distance would make things impossible.”

Then, something pretty incredible happened.  Jessica says, “It was that distance however that sealed our relationship. As hard as the past two years have been living apart, it is what has cemented our lives together. The distance made us both realize how much we loved each other and wanted to spend our lives together.”

Matt agrees: “I would not have realized how important she was to me to me or the depth of our love without leaving the US. Now, all I want is to be back with her and to start our life together, to make her laugh and to see the expressions that she makes, in person, when I rile her up.”

Now, though Jessica and Matt talk about these circumstances as the cause for their deepening love, I believe they are being a little too humble. None of this happened automatically. The deepening and cementing of their love story is due to Jessica and Matt making a choice. They would not allow their love to end. They would rise above their circumstances. They would harness their adversity to write an even better love story. And, that is a great lesson for all of us.

I Choose You

Saturday evening, I officiated Marissa and Brittney’s wedding ceremony, at the Stonebriar Country Club, right here, in Frisco, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

The bond and connection these two share with one another is genuinely unique. Despite coming from very different places and backgrounds, the term bashert really conveys it best: They undoubtedly are meant to be. Don’t take my word for it, take theirs...

Brittney shared with me that, “From the first time I met Marissa, I knew, instantly, this woman was unlike any other: Always genuine, caring, and honest, beautiful, kind, funny, and just so intelligent. I could honestly list adjectives describing how incredible a person she is all day. It’s such a great feeling to be with someone who is always so true, someone who is so compassionate and gentle, someone who really does share the same ideals and morals as me. I don’t take this for granted, as I believe it is quite difficult to find!”

And Marissa shared with me: “When I think of the ideal person, one that we as individuals are supposed to emulate, each and everyday, I think of Brittney. She isn’t just patient, determined, hardworking, and honest; she is the kind of person that I really strive to be more like every day, and I truly believe that if people were more like her, our world would be so much more peaceful, beautiful, and easy going. She is my comfort, she is my family, and she is my home.”

These two are different in many ways. They come from different cities and different backgrounds. They have different hobbies, and different tastes in fashion. But they share what matters most: their passions, their dreams, their hopes, and their unrivaled love for one another. Destined to be together, Marissa and Brittney are living proof that love can always find a way to bring two people together and that love can and will conquer all!

There is a song that both Marissa and Brittney love. They believe that these lyrics sum up their relationship best:

And I'd choose you
In a hundred lifetimes I'd choose you
In a hundred worlds I'd find You...

And I'd say, "I do"
For the rest of my life
With all that I have, I do
And I will
When the sky is falling
I promise you I'm all in,
No turning back.
Every day, every moment, Every breath you take... I choose you.