Tuesday, October 19, 2021

I’ll Have What They’re Having

Monday afternoon, I officiated Debra and Michael’s wedding ceremony in a hot air balloon over the sky of Collin County, Texas. It was just us. Here are remarks I wrote for the original ceremony on terra firma, and what I planned on sharing with them and their guests, before they decided to do something very different for their ceremony:

I ask every person I marry not only why they want to get married, but why now? I think that that is always a good question to ask, but I feel like it is even more poignant, when it’s a seasoned couple. (Don’t call us old. We’re not. We are seasoned.) 

Debra says, “Finding love with Michael was a gift. Our relationship encompasses all that is truly important to me. He’s my soulmate and I can wait to spend the rest of our lives loving and supporting each other.” Michael says, “I spent two years taking my time to get to know about her values, dreams and needs and knew this was a woman that I not only could, but wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Why now, to quote a movie, which I am always doing, just ask Debra, ‘When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.’”

I find this reference to be particularly intriguing, because unlike Harry and Sally, Debra and Michael’s relationship was romantic from the start. It makes sense, though for a number of reasons. First of all, though Meg Ryan, herself, and Sally Albright, the woman she plays, is clearly not Jewish, everything else about the movie is Jewish. Harry, though this is never mentioned, is Jewish; just check out his order at Katz’s Deli. While Sally orders turkey on white bread, oy vey, Harry orders pastrami and rye, like a good Jew. Of course, Billy Crystal himself is a very Jewey Jew, as was Nora Ephron, as is Rob Reiner, and of course, the best line in the whole movie is uttered in the deli by Reiner’s own very Jewish mother.

However, there is one little known fact about the movie that is emblematic of the beauty of Debra and Michael’s love story. The line Michael uses as his answer was not in the original screenplay. In fact, the original screenplay did not have them falling in love and marrying. Reiner changed this because during the filming, he met his second wife.

Barry Sonnenfeld, the film’s cinematographer, also Jewish, said to Reiner, who had been divorced for a decade, “I know this girl. Her name is Michele Singer (also Jewish), and you’re going to marry her.” They met on set, they fell in love, and they are still married today. Reiner says that that made him change his mind, because he said, “Okay, that’s how it could work for me.” 

Debra and Michael, as the years progress may your love only continue to grow. May you both continue to enjoy the type of relationship the real-life couples at the end of that timeless movie have. And may you continue to inspire other couples to say loudly with conviction, “I’ll have what they are having.”

Saturday, October 9, 2021


Saturday evening, I officiated Rachel and Zane’s wedding ceremony at the Embassy Suites, in Grapevine, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I have every person I marry write an essay covering their life and spiritual history, why they want to get married and why now. I have read close to 1,000 of these essays already. This was first time such an essay began, “In the interest of sparing you from reading an auto-biography combined with my disinterest in writing one, I will be keeping this section extremely brief.” I mean, I knew Rachel was direct but… Just kidding, that was, of course, Zane.”

Zane’s courtship technique was, well, interesting. “Our first date was ice cream,” he says, “I was a babbling awkward fool, and she mistook that for charisma… On our second date I listed out my traits that could be potentially deal-breaking from her point of view. Again, she mistakenly thought that was charming.” 

Now, Rachel’s technique was more conventional, but apparently it involved swearing a type of blood oath before embarking on her quest. “Sydney, my roommate insisted that if I reached a fourth date, I had to bring the suitor to our apartment for her to meet them. As I was taking Zane home to meet Sydney, he asked how many others had met her. I told him that he was the only one that had made it this far.” 

In hindsight, their falling in love seems predestined. “We felt a connection within the first few dates. We bonded over the important topics of the day,” says Rachel. These are, and I swear I did not make this list up, Lord of the Rings and DND, feminism in literature, theatre, and metal music.

Seriously, though, Rachel and Zane’s love is a testament to the enduring qualities that make a marriage work. As Rachel says, “Since the beginning of the relationship, I really appreciated his honesty and communication skills. We are able to discuss hard topics when they come up and get on the same page. I have great respect for Zane… He shows that he is proud of my work successes which are very important to me despite our agreement that we will never understand what each other’s job entails.”

And, as Zane says, “She is possibly the kindest human being I’ve ever met. She cares so passionately and learning from being with her has undoubtedly made me a better person… the trust between me and her is stronger than any bond I’ve had before.” Finally, he adds, after almost four years of being together, Rachel and I are stronger than ever… If we can handle being locked in the same room for a year straight without fighting, we can handle anything. I see her as my partner, best friend, and soulmate. I feel beyond lucky that she feels the same way.”

Overflowing of Love

Friday evening, Reverend Rob Bowsher and I co-officiated Sam and Tyler’s wedding ceremony at the Stone Crest Venue, in McKinney, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

The origin story of these high school sweethearts is the stuff of romance novels with a dash of mystery, subterfuge, and humor at the very beginning. 

They met freshman year of high school, became friends in sophomore year, when they had a couple of classes together. Why do I say mystery? Because, Sam says, “I am not really sure what it was about him I liked so much, I think we just clicked.” 

Why do I say subterfuge? Because Sam continues, “I used a project in English as an excuse to get his number and partner with him on it. We started to talk a little bit more, and I had told two of my friends I had a crush on Tyler, and they helped me create a plan for all of us to hang out and go bowling.”

I think I’ve covered humor already, but Tyler drives the point home. Why did Sam have to resort to this derring-do elaborate plan? “This was an excuse for her to get my number as I was playing hard to get.” In the novels, it is usually the other way around, but truth is stranger than fiction.

There is a theme that recurs in the lives of Sam and Tyler that might sound a little too obvious and simplistic, at first blush, but I don’t think it really is: Love.

It was love at that tender age that brought these two together. Now many high school romances don’t last, but the love they shared matured with them. This was the real deal, and eventually they wanted to make it official. 

Reaching back farther before they met each other, both Sam and Tyler each showed a love for their respective faiths. They each loved to learn about their faiths and continue to take great pride in their traditions, that pride being reflected in this very ceremony. 

In our tradition one of the most common explanations for breaking a glass at a wedding is to place it in a category of other acts we do to commemorate the destruction of Herod’s Temple, then the global center of our faith, and with it a short lived independent Jewish state, 1,951 years ago. The Ancient Rabbis tell us that the Temple was destroyed because there was an overflowing of hate among our people.

The late Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, was once asked what it would take to rebuild the Temple and the Jewish commonwealth. He said that since it was destroyed due to an overflowing of hate, the only way it would be rebuilt would be through an overflowing of love. 

Incidentally, this was the implicit if not explicit message in the way that Sam’s late teacher, a man I was honored to call a friend, Rabbi Jeff Leynor, lived his life. His overflowing love for our faith and for all people was something to witness. 

It is this overflowing of love that Tyler speaks of that brought us here today: “Halfway through college we decided the first thing we wanted to do once we graduated was to get married on our anniversary, October 15th. I planned to graduate in the Fall of 2020, so I went and picked out an engagement ring, Spring of 2020. Well, when nothing went according to plan, I popped the question August 9th, 2020. I just couldn’t take not marrying her for another year and I just wanted her to be my wife.”

Sam and Tyler, marriage will have its ups and downs. That is the nature of the world. Cherish this moment and the overflowing mutual love in your hearts. That will not only get you through the downs but make the ups even sweeter. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Luckiest Person on the Planet

Saturday evening, I officiated Devin and Roee’s wedding ceremony at Aspen Ranch, in Edmond, Oklahoma. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

None of us wishes to experience hardship in life. However, when I see a couple who has experienced no hardship, whatsoever, I’m actually worried. I’m not trying to be the skunk at the garden party here, but while weddings are all about romance and celebration, marriage is hard. 

This is why I don’t worry about Devin and Roee. Each of them has endured hardship in their lives. I mean, even if you didn’t know of all the challenges Devin had to work through in her early adulthood, the fact that she had to move to Guam as an 18-year-old tells you enough. (And to quote Rodney Dangerfield’s character Al Czervik in Caddyshack, “No offense,” to Guam.) 

You don’t need me to go into detail to understand the groom’s challenges either. All you need to do is imagine what it would be like for an Israeli boy named Roee to end up at 12 years old in the suburbs of Fort Worth. I mean, the fish-out-of-water sit-com practically writes itself. 

These past hardships prepared these two for the mundane challenges every budding relationship encounters. Roee says, “It was an adjustment to move in together, for sure, since I was a stranger in OKC. I moved with my dog; she had a dog as well, and they didn’t get along in the beginning. It was quite the experience. I also started a new job when I moved to OKC which was another adjustment for me. Devin was supportive through the process, but it was not easy.”

Devin reflects this too, when she says, “Moving in together was an extreme challenge for me. After living by myself for almost a year, I had already grown very comfortable with my routine and lifestyle. And Roee disrupted that. He always seemed to want to work out in the most inconvenient times, he blasted music through the house dancing EVERYDAY, and don’t get me started on his sweaty clothes.”

Devin says, though, “Despite all this, he is the most patient, understanding, loving, and dedicated man. Since I have known him, I have gone through a lot of personal growth, and he has stuck by my side throughout that entire journey… For the first time in my life, I feel like I truly know what God‘s unconditional love looks like, because I have experienced it through Roee.”

Roee agrees, “I do not only love Devin; I know she is a genuine and kind person, who has so much to give. Through our time together, I know she’ll be a great wife and mother to our future children. We have been through so much together… We persevered and it made us stronger… She is my biggest fan, and I am hers. We are best friends and can talk about anything.”

Well, almost anything, because Devin says, “I know that I am the luckiest person on the planet, having a partner like Roee, but don’t tell him that, I like him to think that he’s the luckiest.”