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.”