Monday, December 25, 2023

My Life

On Friday, December 22nd, I officiated Lindsey and JD’s wedding ceremony at the Chapel at Gruene in New Braunfels, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Lindsey and JD met earlier than most couples. Lindsey elaborates: “JD and I met in elementary school. He lived down the street from me so we would always be around each other. His mom was a teacher at our elementary school, and I would be in her hallway most days after school, and I would see JD in her room. Or rather he would be around me and I would try to ignore him and talk to my friends. We were better friends in middle school, because we rode the same bus and we would sit next to each other in the same group of friends every day.”

JD picks up the story from there: “One day in my sophomore year of high school, I received a text that said, ‘When did you get cute?’ To my surprise, it was from Lindsey. Naturally we couldn’t stop texting each other and even facetimed through the night… For homecoming, we had already been asked by separate people, but we spent the entire football game and dance together, even though our dates were probably annoyed. We dated for a short time, but ended up parting ways because I was young and foolish. I… never quite got over… Lindsey.”

When I asked Lindsey why she wanted to marry JD, she said, “He's the best roommate I've ever had.” That is high praise from a woman, JD. I have been married for 30 years, and I am not sure my wife would say that about me! She continues, “I want to marry Junior because he is thoughtful, kind, adventurous, and complements me well. If there are things I find lacking in myself, like being extroverted, he is the opposite in a way that supports me and makes me better. He is also supportive in all things I do, sometimes playing devil’s advocate when I’d rather he just agreed with me but keeping me honest and realistic about things is also a great thing. I love him for who he is and how he makes me feel equally loved.” 

JD is effusive about why he wants to marry Lindsey: “Whenever I am stressed or worried, being around Lindsey is my comfort, my friend to talk to, my north star. I don’t care where life leads me, as long as she’s by my side, I know I’ll be okay. She’s caring, giving, beautiful, sweet, and above all loving to all things. She lights up any room she’s in, with her magnetic personality making everyone feel welcome. Her smile and laugh are contagious and addicting.”

JD adds one thing. He says that Lindsey is Chayim Sheli. Now literally, that means “my life”. However, it is also the title of a 2018 Hebrew song by Eden Ben Zaken.

Now, I don’t usually assign homework during a wedding ceremony, but you do owe to yourself to both watch the song on Youtube and Google the lyrics in English, but here is the snippet that I think JD was aiming for and which we should all aim for in our loving relationships. Listen carefully (to the English, at least):

אוי, אתה החיים שלי

איך שיש לי אותך

,מזל שיש לי אותך לידי

אוי, אתה החיים שלי

אני צועקת מול כולם

אתה האושר בעולם בשבילי

ואיך זה איתך כל בוקר הוא אושר

הלוואי שהזמן יעצור לתמיד

ואיך שבאת לרגע

ונשארת לנצח

אהבה לכל החיים

Oh, you are my life
How is it that I have you
I’m so lucky to have you
Oh, you are my life
I cry out before everyone
You are the world’s greatest happiness

And how is it that with you every morning is happiness
If only time could stop forever
And how is that you came for one moment
And have stayed for eternity
A love for the rest of my life


On Saturday, December 2nd, I officiated Anita and Anthony’s Eastern Orthodox-Muslim wedding ceremony at Anita’s parents’ home in Plano, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

What stands out to me the most about Anita and Anthony is that they embody the opposite of one of the deepest ideas of Henry David Thoreau. In Walden, Thoreau contends that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Mike Turitzin explains this idea thus: “We feel a void in our lives, and we attempt to fill it with things like money, possessions, and accolades. We think these things will make us happy.”

Tutritzin adds: “We lead lives of quiet desperation when we resign ourselves to dissatisfaction. Quiet desperation is acceptance of–and surrendering to–circumstances. Quietly desperate lives are frustrated, passive, and apathetic. They’re unfulfilled and unrealized.” Why do I say that Anita and Anthony embody the opposite of this idea? Because they are both seekers. 

Anita recounts her seeker journey growing up: “I plunged into prayer and reflection to understand God and the whys of life. My older brother and I purchased the best English-translated Qur’an we could and studied to understand our place… It was eye-opening to me that my non-Muslim friends believed in the same Higher Power but simply understood this Supreme Being differently. This shared, innate, and unifying belief in so many of my friends from different walks of life was so powerful and comforting through my college and young adult years. Continuing to delve into different philosophies, visiting various houses of worship, and learning more and more has humbled me so much but also brought me to connect to so many others!”

Anthony recounts his seeker journey, which began a little later in life: “I began investigating other religions… I began visiting Orthodox Christian Churches… Despite my oscillating I was always drawn back to the… Orthodox Church… Psalm 143 and G-d’s “unfailing love” has been an obsessive curiosity of mine for many years… I have continued to grow in the Church… I am… always learning new things about Church traditions. Even though I have grown firm in my belief I continue to enjoy learning about other religions and listening to religious debates and lectures from a wide variety of scholars and speakers.”

In this Anita and Anthony embody the mythical common father of our religions, Abraham, who the Bible and the Quran describe as the ultimate seeker, who through his seeking came to know God. Anita and Anthony, what we wish for you is that you continue your seeking journey, as individuals and as a couple, and that through your seeking you continue to grow in your understanding of the divine and its manifestation in your lives. 

Friday, December 1, 2023

That’s What I Want

On Saturday, November 18th, I officiated Aryn and Miles’ wedding ceremony at Shelton's Place in Lufkin, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Aryn and Miles’ relationship almost never started. As Aryn says, “We had mutual friends, one is a nurse who worked with me, and her fiancé at the time (now husband) is a police officer who worked with Miles. She was constantly telling me that I needed to meet Miles. The goofy, life of the party, reptile enthusiast, Miles. At the time I truly was not interested in meeting him.” Womp, womp, one might say…

“She does add, though, “Of course, I did meet him through work-related events. He would bring patients to the ER, and then take them to jail.” How romantic! It was, however, this type of interaction that brought them together. Miles brought in a patient, it wasn’t clear that he belonged there, and Aryn was going to give him a piece of her mind, or as Miles puts it, “Aryn took it upon herself to reach out to me and share some kind words about how she felt in regards to receiving said patient.”

Now, you may have heard that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. You are wrong. Miles says, “What’s often the best way to cheer up somebody who is quite vocally upset? Food. So, I thought I would try it on her. But not just any food, power rings (donuts) and kolaches. It worked and the rest is history.”

Aryn agrees: “From that day forward, Miles and I had a natural attraction and to my surprise had a lot in common. He was so easy to be myself around, we could carry on a conversation, we could be quiet and enjoy each other's presence, and best of all we could laugh. Laughing and being silly happens on a daily basis with us.”

Then Aryn invokes a very important concept: “You ask why I want to marry him and why now. It's simple, he’s my person!” What does that mean? Lisa Bonos writes, “The term was coined… on “Grey’s Anatomy” — to describe the deep bond between best friends Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) and Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo)… It’s someone who understands what you’re thinking or feeling, no explanation required… Advocating for you and cheering you on — while also delivering tough love when needed.”

Someone’s person need not be their romantic partner, necessarily. But how beautiful it is when they are. They then fit this wonderful description from the movie Frances Ha: “It’s that thing when you’re with someone, and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it… but it’s a party… and you’re both talking to other people, and you’re laughing and shining… and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes… but – but not because you’re possessive, or it’s precisely sexual… but because… that is your person in this life. And it’s funny and sad, but only because this life will end, and it’s this secret world that exists right there in public, unnoticed, that no one else knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us, but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s – That’s what I want out of a relationship. Or just life, I guess.” Aryn and Miles, may you always be each other’s persons.

Living a Meaningful Life

On Saturday, November 4th, I officiated Tracey and Doug’s wedding ceremony at the Room on Main in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Here is an interesting exercise for you. We all know our parents’ names, most of us know our grandparents’ names, but very few of us can name all eight great-grandparents. Think forward a few decades, and this means that our very blood might not remember us, not to mention those who are not descended from us.

Now, this could cause you to despair, or it could cause you to recognize that life is short, and we must make the most of it. What does making the most of it entail, you might ask? I contend that it is living a meaningful life, in which we help others and enjoy what life has to offer. In that, even if you are not remembered by name, your heritage will pass on and be felt by those in the future.

Incidentally, this type of heritage is embedded in what brought Tracey and Doug together. They were introduced by Debbie Freed, a very dear friend of Tracey’s, who later passed away from pancreatic cancer. Her wonderful husband, Howard, honors us tonight with his presence. Debbie will always be in Tracey and Doug’s hearts.

Tracey and Doug, what we hope for you is that you will continue to live a meaningful life, enjoy what life has to offer, and always help others, and that that life will be further enhanced by your true mutual love and companionship.

A Lifetime of Happiness Together

On Saturday, October 28, 2023, Reverend Kelly Ingersoll and I co-officiated Aimee and Jason’s wedding ceremony at the Omni Oklahoma City Hotel in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

One of the things that stands out about how Aimee and Jason live their lives as individuals and as a couple is that they believe that their differences not only don’t stand between them but serve to enhance their relationship. 

Jason says: “We do not see eye-to-eye on everything about life. From small to big things, we agree on some and yet disagree on others… I find that these moments have made us stronger and realize just how much we love each other. I love Aimee for who she is. She is very passionate about her beliefs… She is very sympathetic and kind-hearted. You see this with her love for all things: animals (especially our 12lb weenie dog Rocco), people, and life… I don’t want to change her. I want to embrace all of who she is.” 

Aimee highlights the interfaith aspect of their love story, specifically: “There can be many questions around how you co-mingle a marriage and raise families with different faiths, and I’d be lying if I said I knew all the answers. For us, it’s about respecting each other’s beliefs and traditions and willing to participate and celebrate our faiths in whichever way we feel comfortable.”

In fact, have you ever met someone who does have all the answers? They are usually not that pleasant to be around. I much prefer people like Aimee and Jason, who continue to wrestle with the questions. 

In that spirit Jason says, “When people ask, ‘When did you know you were ready to marry her?” in all honesty I don’t have an exact answer. All I know is that at some point in time, it hit me that I want to spend the rest of my life with her. It may be the cliché but marrying her is my way of showing both her and God just that.” And Aimee shows she is clearly ready when she says, “Jason and I have had the best four and a half years as a couple and I look forward to a lifetime of happiness together.”

Still the One

On Saturday, October 21, 2023, I officiated Layla and Ben’s wedding ceremony at the Westin Galleria in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

When I think about Layla and Ben’s love story, one idea stands out. They have the best kind of love, a mature love. They have been together for twelve years but it’s not just an issue of time. Their love story evokes one of the best songs ever written about mature love, Still the One. No, not the one by Shania Twain, the one by the Orleans all the way back in 1976:

We've been together since way back when…

I want you to know, after all these years

You're still the one I want whisperin' in my ear…

You're still the one that makes me laugh

Still the one that's my better half

We're still having fun and you're still the one

You're still the one that makes me strong

Still the one I wanna take along

We're still having fun and you're still the one… 

You're still the one who can scratch my itch

You're still the one that I wouldn't switch

We're still having fun and you're still the one

You are still the one that makes me shout

Still the one that I dream about

We're still having fun and you're still the one…

Don’t take it from me or from the Orleans. Listen to Layla and Ben. Ben says, “Over the past 5 years living together, we organized a move over 1200 miles, persevered through job losses, supported one another through family deaths and hardship, survived Covid lockdown, and built our own little world for ourselves. We… have grown together to support each other. We are closer now than ever. The original foundations of our relationship through shared interests (primarily music and art) have expanded to include all aspects of life. We take care of each other as a whole person and are committed to each other forever. “Our wedding shall act as a public confirmation, not initiation of this commitment.”

And Layla say: “Bluntly and simply, I love him and he loves me. But obviously it goes deeper than that. He is my best friend; he knows everything about me and still takes me for who and what I am. I am not perfect, and neither is he…. However, we have chosen to work through any issues and grow together instead of letting them tear us apart. This relationship has lasted over 12 years, and we have certainly run the gamut in that time. In all honesty, I feel like we are married already. We share responsibilities… talk about our futures and where we see ourselves in the coming years… I don’t have a scenario without Ben in it; he is my everything.”

Pick One Another Up

On Saturday, October 14, 2023, I officiated Jamie and Colby’s wedding ceremony at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

The beginning of Jamie and Colby’s story is somewhat dramatic but straightforward. As Jamie says, writing in the third person, because of course she does: “Their love story begins like a scene from a movie. Red plastic cups strewn along the bar, the latest top 40s song playing in the background as string lights highlight the center of the basement, a beer pong table.” They proceeded to talk, play beer pong, and people watch. Colby asked for and got her number, and they lived happily ever after. 

No, that is not how it happened. As Jamie admits, “Colby asked if she would like to continue the tour and Jamie told him she should check on her roommate first. Turns out, her floormates were ready to head back to the dorm within a couple of minutes, meaning Jamie left Colby with no wave goodbye, no number, and no goodnight kiss.” Womp womp, as one might say.

A lesser man would have given up, but not Colby. In true Churchillian fashion he said to himself, “Never, never, never give up.” What followed was a detective story worthy of Arthur Conan Doyle. Interestingly enough, it is not Jamie, the professional storyteller that relates it; it is Colby who does.

“The next day, I logged onto Facebook… After some digging, I found her and sought to further a relationship by friending her. Unfortunately, her privacy settings were beefed up and didn’t allow me to do so… Fast-forward a few weeks later as Theta Chi’s first date night was approaching. With zero real prospects past or present to consider, I thought back to the girl I’d met the month before… How can I get in touch… Heading up to my room for the night, I heard a familiar voice from down the hall. A fellow Mah-Kee-Nac camper, who I recalled seeing talk to Jamie’s roommate on that August night, is hanging out with one of my pledge brothers. Wheels start to turn in my head… I… asked if he wouldn’t mind reaching out to his friend to ask if by some stroke of luck he happened to have Jamie’s roommate’s phone number. And if he somehow did, if he would be willing to ask her for Jamie’s number. My pledge brother happily obliged and set the chain of telephone in motion.” 

Jamie picks up the story and says, “It took Jamie a moment to realize Colby had to be the cute fraternity guy she met the first weekend at school. A quick Facebook search confirmed that yes, he was very cute, so Jamie told her to pass the number along… While she was slightly annoyed Colby misspelled her name (one of Jamie’s biggest pet-peeves) upon first reaching out, the moment she walked into Theta Chi the following weekend and he mixed her a cranberry vodka with lime, she knew the rest was history.”

Now, there is definitely an important lesson there regarding persistence, but I wanted to highlight another lesson Jamie and Colby teach us. Colby says: “My relationship with Jamie has taught me the power of partnership – this in a much deeper sense than what I’ve experienced for 6+ years negotiating, managing and evaluating sports marketing partnerships for work. As we have matured individually and together as a couple, I feel we have both begun to view our relationship from the lens of a partnership and being more than the emotional and physical connections that initially brought us together… To me, marriage and marrying Jamie is a commitment to a lifetime of partnership.” 

And Jamie says: “We’re both ready to spend our lives together. As hard as long distance was, we both used that time to focus on our careers and to grow individually. Now is the time for us to grow together. We make great roommates and puppy parents and are overall a good team, always finding a way to balance the other out, or pick one another up when they are down… We look forward to being married.”

Embrace of the Future

On Thursday, October 12, 2023, I officiated Diana and Ariel’s wedding ceremony at the Chapel at Palacios in Westlake, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

I ask every person I marry to tell me why they want to marry the other person. It’s kind of an important question, and no one aside from me can get away with asking it. I mean, imagine telling your bestie that you have become engaged. They are supposed to say congratulations, not why. 

I love Diana and Ariel’s answers. They are short, direct, and to the point, like Israelis and Venezuelans are, and they are at the same time deep, again, as Israelis and Venezuelans are.

Diana says that being with Ariel, “feels right, it feels like home. As an immigrant it’s very hard to genuinely feel at home. With Ariel, every time I return from work, ‘together’ is just the best place. I feel peace, I feel loved.”

And Ariel says, “When I met Diana, I was in the most unexpected place in my life. Meeting her and being with her has made life make more sense. It has increased my trust in the universe, God, and the process.”

Wow. What an optimistic sense of love and hope, what a beautiful embrace of the future. Of course, this reminded me of one of the most famous poems of that other Tchernichovsky, Shaul:

“Laugh at all my dreams, my dearest; laugh, and I repeat anew

That I still believe in mankind as I still believe in you.

For my soul is not yet unsold to the golden calf of scorn

And I still believe in man and the spirit in him born.

By the passion of his spirit shall his ancient bonds be shed

Let the soul be given freedom, let the body have its bread!

Laugh, for I believe in friendship, and in one I still believe,

One whose heart shall beat with my heart and with mine rejoice and grieve. 

Let the time be dark with hatred, I believe in years beyond.

Love at last shall bind the peoples in an everlasting bond.

In that day shall my own people rooted in its soil arise,

Shake the yoke from off its shoulders and the darkness from its eyes.

Life and love and strength and action in their heart and blood shall beat

And their hopes shall be both heaven and the earth beneath their feet.

Then a new song shall be lifted to the young, the free, the brave

And the wreath to crown the singer shall be gathered from my grave.”

Diana and Ariel, thank you for embracing and sharing your love and optimism with us. May they continue to carry you into a loving marriage for many years to come.

Fight Together

On Tuesday, October 10, 2023, I officiated Hannah and Justin’s wedding ceremony in Spicewood, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Hannah and Justin’s story reminded me of one of the most misunderstood episodes in American political history. It occurred in the 1992 presidential campaign, specifically, during the vice-presidential debate. That year, our fellow Texan, Ross Perot, ran for president and he chose James Stockdale, as his running mate. Stockdale, with a shock of white hair, proceeded to introduce himself to the crowd at the debate with these words, “Who am I? Why am I here?” He was greeted with laughter, and the assumption of the public was that he was a confused old man.

Far from it, though. Stockdale was the most decorated Vietnam era POW. He provided leadership in the unfathomable Hanoi Hilton. He was and remains revered as one of the most important military philosophers of our time. The Stockdale Paradox is named for him. He was trying to answer a question he thought needed answering, why was a man of his caliber there. However, on a deeper level, he was asking questions we all need to answer, who am I, why am I here? Hannah and Justin know the need to ask those questions and not shy away from where the answers take them.

There is a story in the Talmud, the foundational book of Judaism (nope, it’s not the Bible), that sheds some light on maybe not the answer to that question but how one must answer it. We are told of a man named Elazar ben Durdaya, who deeply struggled with certain vices. There came a moment, when a close associate remarked that there was no way Elazar could ever get back on the right path.

The remark was a wake up call for Elazar, and the Talmud tells us of a discussion he had, likely in his head. He began begging the sun and the moon, the mountains and valleys, and other natural phenomena, one by one to help him. They each explain that they cannot. Then Elazar realized what many of us, including Hannah and Justin, come to realize at crucial moments in our lives, and he said, “Apparently, it is entirely up to me.” There are no shortcuts. I have to face the facts. I have to face reality. 

There is one important lesson, though, that Elazar overlooked. He overlooked the biblical maxim, “He who finds a wife, has found happiness, and has won the favor of the Lord.” And he didn’t have the opportunity to meet Hannah and Justin. Hannah and Justin’s inspiring story of redemption is proof that you don’t need to struggle alone. You can hold hands with that special someone and you can fight together. If that is the right person, together you can answer that double question, who am I, why am I here, just like Hannah and Justin have.

Widening the Circle of Concern

On Saturday, October 7, 2023, I officiated Emma and Matt’s wedding ceremony at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Emma says that, “The story of how we met is a true modern day Jewish classic: blending the power of 21st century technology with the timeless persistence of a trifecta of Jewish mothers… I don’t remember where I was when I received a text from my mother saying, ‘Carol’s husband Warren, has a nephew that lives in San Francisco. He works in tech (yes mom, so does 99% percent of this city), and would you ever be open to meeting him?’” 

Once her positive response reaches Matt it turns out that they had matched already on Hinge, Matt had messaged her, and Emma had ignored him. Busted! 

Matt picks up the story from there and says: “Thankfully Emma decided to send her number back through the yenta chain. We had our first date in December 2018, and the rest is history. I continue to tell her we could have had another eight months together and been married already!”

Now, this is not the place to go into all the details, but if you know Emma and Matt and their families, you know they have experienced a greater share of challenges than what seems fair. How have they persevered? How have they not only survived but thrived? What is their secret?

I believe the answer may be found in something Emma says about Matt, but which is truly representative of both of them: “I loved the way Matt made me feel and made the people around him feel, from the CEO of his company, to Betty, the cleaning woman at his office, who he invited out to dinner with us one night for pupusas in the Mission. He invests in people, not because he thinks he can get something in return from them, but because he truly is fascinated by everyone’s story in a genuine and unpretentious way.”

The Ancient Rabbis, who were very concerned with action, and not so concerned with beliefs, ask what commandment one may best fulfill through marriage. Their answer is simple, yet profound, and reflects what I just told you: Love your neighbor, as yourself. Love your spouse as much as you love yourself. Then widen your circle of concern beyond that to include everyone else. And in the words of Viktor Frankl, quoting Nietzsche, once you have your why, you can withstand any what that is thrown at you. 

It is through the widening of that circle of concern that Emma and Matt and their families have overcome everything they have, it is through the widening of that circle of concern that they persevere. It is through the widening of that circle of concern that they will find everlasting happiness.

Monday, September 4, 2023

No Matter What May Come

On Sunday, I officiated Dina and Will’s wedding ceremony at the Lizton Lodge in Lizton, Indiana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

One of the reasons I have enjoyed working with Dina and William is that they are, and nowadays (as opposed to say the 1980s) this term is viewed as positive, hopeless nerds, and so am I. As a result, we think very deeply about words concepts, and feelings others might not and have a particular self-awareness that not everyone possesses. 

None of us decide how we will meet our soulmate, and certainly none of us can decide when. Still, every now and then, we all run across the couple who makes us do what the West Africans call, le tchip. We suck our breath in through our teeth. Since that couple has been fortunate enough to not really experience any negatives in life, we ruefully wonder what will happen when they do, because make no mistake, we all do.

Not Dina and William. They each have had experiences in life, as individuals and as a couple, that have pained them and challenged them, that have built them up. You can see this in how William describes the genesis and development of their relationship. There is something both almost mystical, as well as practical in his words:

“I probably knew I wanted to be with Dina before she even knew my name. It started with an attraction from across the room, but quickly blossomed into a more balanced, refreshing relationship than I’d ever thought possible. Over our first few months, we spent as much time together as we could. As I learned more and more about her, I grew nothing but more certain that I was with someone I could see myself with for the rest of my life. We provided strengths where the other had weaknesses and introduced each other to the different things we loved and were passionate about. We began developing a sense of trust and supportiveness that would eventually prove a fundamental pillar of our partnership.”

It is interesting that he uses that word, partnership. Dina says, “When I met William, I learned how it felt to be a partner instead of a girlfriend. He treated me with respect and simply enjoyed being with me - especially when I was being the weird me that I’d felt the need to hide for so long. He sang along to Disney with me, he wanted to spend the afternoon at bookstores (mostly because that’s what I wanted to do), he encouraged me to do puzzles and experiment with crafts I’d set aside for a long time. I felt special and comfortable in my own skin and could once again put down some of the weight I’d forced myself to carry wherever I went.”

Wow. I find that so deep. THAT is what an ideal relationship is really all about. It is giving the other person the ability, the permission, the support, to put down some of the weight we are carrying and to be our real selves.

This is what William has done for Dina: “When we started dating, I still had my walls up. It took some tears and some time to bring them down, but William was there for me every step of the way, reliably my steadfast shoulder to cry on. His patience, understanding and compassion are why I fell in love with him. His support when support wasn’t the easiest option is what made me certain I wanted to spend my life with him as my partner, my Dungeon Master and my best friend.”

This is what Dina has done for William: “It brings me peace knowing I will always be able to count on her no matter what may come… We only continued to grow stronger together. I had found happiness and love I hadn’t been looking for or expected ever to find… It both frightens and heartens me how many little things had to go right for us to end up together, but not a day goes by that I am not thankful that whatever needed to happen to bring us together, happened.”


On Thursday, 8/31, I officiated Leili and Ryon’s wedding ceremony at the Reflections Venue and Gardens in Plano, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

One of the most important precepts in the Abrahamic religions is what we call in Hebrew, hakarat hatov. Now, this literally translates as recognition of good, but really means a sense of gratitude. 

This precept is so important that the Bible extends it even to inanimate objects. Moses, for instance, is told to send Aaron to strike the Nile to elicit a couple of the plagues rather than doing it himself because the Nile hid and saved him when he was a baby.

Truth be told, the American psyche militates against this idea. We are told that in our society, all evidence to the contrary, if you work hard and play by the rules, you will, in almost mathematical fashion, succeed. And if you buy that, I have a great bridge to sell you too… Leili and Ryon aren’t fooled by this, though. They recognize their good fortune.

In fairness, it is a little easier in their case not to take their coming together for granted. After all, what are the odds of a Trinidadian Grenadian Canadian soccer playing financier and an Iranian Mexican Texan, sometime, Californian social justice practitioner not only meeting each other, but finding so much in common and falling in love. 

It is this type of gratitude for what fate has wrought upon you that makes not just the exciting parts of life, oh, I don’t know, like going to Babe’s Chicken, but also the seemingly mundane parts of life richer and more meaningful. 

Indeed, Leili and Ryon explicitly emphasize that they not only enjoy the opportunity “to explore the world and have adventures with each other but they also love their evenings at home, cooking dinner together, watching movies and showing each other TikTok videos - life is exactly what they both want for themselves!”

And the recognition of your good fortune forms the best type of launching pad for the vital work that is marriage. As Leili and Ryon say, “What you see before you today is the result of three and a half years of two individuals committed to doing the work of creating the relationship they want for themselves. These three and a half years have provided them the opportunities to evolve into more healed versions of themselves. And they know that work never ends.”

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Turn the Tide

On Saturday, I officiated Sam and Nate’s wedding ceremony on the Glacier Park Lodge's back lawn, overlooking Dancing Lady Mountain, in East Glacier Park, Montana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Sam’s initial impression of Nate was not promising: She thought he was loud and obnoxious and thought they would never be close. Nate acknowledges that she was right and that consequently they quickly became frenemies.

Now, if you have picked up on the fact that that is not where their relationship remained, congratulations, Sherlock; we are after all at their wedding. Indeed, Nate took a famous saying to heart, if you ever get a second chance in life, you’ve got to go all the way. 

That summer, due to a work schedule quirk at both of their places of employment, they found themselves at Friday happy hour together early, every other week, waiting for the rest of their friends to get off work. This gave them the chance to really get to know each other. Once Sam got to know the real Nate, she liked what she saw. It took Nate a couple of months to really pick up on the fact that the tides had turned, but once he did, it was smooth sailing from there. 

What a fascinating journey these two had just getting to the point where their relationship began. To me the lessons are simple. We don’t choose how we fall in love. For the most part, love, at first sight, is just a figment of Hollywood rom-com imagination. Relationships that are worth it involve stepping on each other’s toes. Relationships that go the distance are the ones in which we deal with some challenges along the way. Relationships that last are ones in which we allow each other to evolve.

It is this type of love that causes Nate to say that Sam makes him a better person. It is this type of love that causes Sam to say she couldn’t imagine a day without Nate. It is this type of relationship that brings Nate and Sam to each say that they want to spend the rest of their lives with each other and, of course, with their pup Lincoln.

Sunday, August 13, 2023


In July, I officiated Kelly and Michael’s wedding ceremony at The Astorian in Houston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Michael says that the genesis of his meeting Kelly was at his 32nd birthday party: “A friend of mine asked me a few questions about my love life and future goals… She asked me if I would be interested in meeting one of her friends… We ended up meeting a few weeks later at a gender reveal.” Michael adds, with an air of intrigue, “I almost didn’t go to the gender reveal, but my friend was persistent.” 

Of course, on Kelly’s side, there was no hesitancy about attending, because said friend, Jacque, had said the magic words that melt every woman’s heart when she described Michael: “Michael Samuels… loves Disney, cruises, and Disney cruises.” Though their interactions at the party were halting, numbers were exchanged, before Michael proceeded to his next party. (I have no idea if it was Disney-themed.) 

Kelly says that things proceeded quickly after that: “Three days later we went on our first date to Little Woodrow’s. We talked for hours. I remember thinking Michael was so cute and interesting. We extended our date by getting burgers across the street. The night ended with a first kiss and plans to see each other the following evening. We went out three nights in a row.” By that point, Michael says, he was completely enamored. 

Now, I always ask people why they want to get married and why now. Michael’s answer? “Because she told me.” That’s not the whole answer, but that does make it funnier. Seriously, though, for Michael, it’s simple: “I love Kelly, she makes me better, and I can’t imagine a life without her.”

The teacher, surprise, is slightly more verbose. Here is what Kelly says: “I am so excited to be married because I want a partner to enjoy my life with. I want someone that I can be my authentic self around and for my partner to be able to be his authentic self too. I desire someone that makes life more enjoyable and sees the world with rose-colored glasses. I want to enjoy the highs of life, feel supported during my lows, and support my partner whenever he is experiencing his lows. And Michael is that man!”

Kelly and Michael, I think there is one word there that really describes the ideal marriage: authentic. The thing is that that word, and I think everyone here will agree with me, also describes each of you, individually and as a couple. Thank you for showing us how it is done, and for making it look effortless. May you continue to be blessed with authenticity, from this day forward.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Good Fortune

Last Saturday, I officiated Hope and Henry’s wedding ceremony at Hall on Dragon in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Before I even talk to a couple about marrying them, I ask them to tell me about themselves, how they met, and what happened since. Not to make this about me, but one of the best things about asking these types of questions, and working with couples like Hope and Henry, is that they make me feel young. 

When speaking to Hope and Henry, though, I got to really feel young, because Hope told me, “Henry and I met at Greenhill School in Addison, Texas when we were 10 years old.” Now, Henry does clarify that they didn’t start dating in the 5th grade, which is good because this might be the one thing in which I am conservative, I’m not sure what dating in the 5th grade even means.

In fact, Henry says, “We did not become good friends until high school. Over time, I began to realize that I didn't just appreciate Hope as a friend but as someone I wanted to share my whole life with.” Hope clarifies that by saying, “We started dating during our final year of high school and we have been together ever since, even through four years of separate colleges.” 

How incredible is that? It’s not that you can plan your life this way. Sometimes it just happens, but how wonderful for Hope and Henry that it did for them. What incredibly amazing good fortune. It takes hard work too, though, to make sure that you complement and balance the other person out.

As Hope says, “Henry is my absolute best friend. He is the tall to my short, the soft-spoken to my verbosity, and the little-known sass to my well-known sass. He is my support system and my comfort in life.” 

Once you have that, it’s really not a question of if, but when. Here Hope and Henry are both rather practical. Henry says, “Getting married now is the right time because we are both settled in our careers, and we have lived together long enough to know we enjoy spending every day together.”

Hope agrees, but, of course, invokes the law: “I want to get married to Henry so that we can celebrate our love and can cement a legal connection… We both have happy and stable lives and careers, we finally feel like we have time and are in a headspace to enjoy a celebration about us.”

A Heavenly Algorithm

Last Friday I officiated Daisy and Samuel’s trilingual wedding ceremony at The Springs (the Ranch) in Aubrey, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Samuel says this about the genesis of this relationship: “Daisy and I met on Facebook Dating. We spoke back and forth for a few weeks and then made plans to meet. Unfortunately, Daisy canceled on me twice, which, of course, I still give her a playful hard time about to this day.”

Now, in a way, the genesis of their relationship is actually before that. Check out this almost mystical statement from Daisy: “As cheesy as it sounds, before I met Samuel, I prayed a lot for him. I prayed that I would find an honest, caring, sweet, loving man. A man that would not only be my partner but my best friend.” Wow.

Daisy describes their first date, and again there is something almost mystical about her description: “We finally agreed to meet… It was after a snowstorm. He was so sweet, making sure I was okay to drive. I've never been so nervous when meeting someone but with him it was different. So different that I was literally shaking when handing him something. Once we sat down and started chatting my nervousness went out the door. Samuel has the ability to make everyone feel calm. I felt like I knew him for a long time.”

Daisy’s excitement which turned into calm taps into a Jewish mystical tradition. The Ancient Rabbis believed that while we are still embryos, a heavenly voice proclaims who we will marry. We then wander the world in search of that person. Maybe if there was Facebook Dating 2,000 years ago, they would have called it a heavenly algorithm. And so, when we meet our soulmate, we may think that this is just random, but really we are predestined to meet.  

Samuel reiterates this very idea: “I believe with all honesty that Daisy is my other half. Every time we are together, I feel comfortable, and I can always be myself. She is so beautiful inside and out. She is determined, hard-working, honest, and loving. There has never been another that I’ve felt so deeply for. I know she is the one for me and the one I want to spend my life with. I can’t imagine a better time to make that a real thing.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

There Really Isn’t Anything Else to Wait For

In June, I officiated Angeline and Ben’s wedding ceremony at Arlington Hall in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

One thing I learned from Angeline’s description of the genesis of her relationship with Ben is that Ben and I share a trait that is apparently abnormal: “Ben and I met during the height of the pandemic, which meant a lot of outdoor dates early on and a lot of texting. I remember thinking it was a bit unusual for someone to text in complete sentences with punctuation and capitalization.”

I did not realize that texting in full sentences and with punctuation was weird until Angeline pointed this out! I have confirmed with her, though, that he, at least does not include any citations or footnotes in his texts, which I have been known to include…

Now one of the things critics of interfaith and intercultural relationships point to are differences that could be supposedly insurmountable. Angeline says that from the very start, it was the very opposite for her and Ben: “Ben invited me for coffee at Klyde Warren Park… We walked around the downtown area… talking and getting to know each other. I very distinctly remember not even five minutes into the walk, thinking that Ben felt so similar to myself, familiar in a way that I don’t remember ever feeling before when first meeting someone. 

I don’t know if it was how he phrased things or how he answered questions but that was my overwhelming first impression. In the way that I tend to overthink, I even wondered a few times early in our relationship whether us being so similar would be a problem (supposedly, opposites attract, etc.), but I’m glad I ignored that.”

I’m a little amused when people describe their first date differently, or at least emphasize different aspects of that first date, and this is one of those cases. Listen to Ben’s description: “The plan was to meet in Klyde Warren Park… and grab coffee from one of the food trucks. We met as planned, but then things appeared to be going downhill rather quickly. Half of the park was being fenced off for some sort of private event. Because of the closure, the usual coffee vendors were gone. And the remaining half of the park was hosting some sort of protest. I like things that go according to plan, and this was not going according to plan.

We started walking away from the park, without a destination in mind exactly. We didn’t really talk about anything in particular – a bit about ourselves, the weirdness of the past few months, the quirkiness of Dallas architecture. And as we wandered around downtown, a funny thing happened. I stopped caring that our plan was disrupted. I was comfortable with Angeline in a way that I hadn’t expected and couldn’t explain. So, there were more dates and more walks, and gradually the world started returning to something like normal. But even when things were going according to plan, I was always happier when I was with Angeline.”

As their relationship progressed, Angeline and Ben found the differences between them, and these have only enhanced their relationship. Angeline says, “I have known Ben now for a little over two years. Our relationship has been comfortable and easy, loving and fun. Ben is incredibly considerate and kind and always knows the right things to say when I am stressed or tired. He is passionate about his work and it is a joy to hear him talk about his research. He gives amazing hugs. At the risk of sounding too cliched or sappy, it really does feel like we are two halves of a whole or two puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly. 

And now that I know him better, I can see our differences in addition to our similarities. Ben is more of a planner and is more organized. I tend to procrastinate more. Ben is much better at work-life balance and keeping work at work, which is something I am learning from him. I am very excited to get married and to continue our lives together; I think we will make an amazing team.”

And Ben says, “Several people have told us that we have very similar personalities. That’s true, to an extent, but we also complement each other. Angeline is thoughtful, curious, and kind. But more importantly, when I get too fixed on a plan that isn’t working, she reminds me that it’s ok to adjust, and sometimes even to wander. At this point, I simply couldn’t imagine not marrying her. Life always has challenges, but I’m also sure that we’ll be better at overcoming them together. I can already see that Angeline makes me a better version of myself… There really isn’t anything else to wait for.”

My Favorite Human

In June, Deacon Edward Rositas and I co-officiated Cristina and Zac’s wedding ceremony at Canyonwood Ridge in Dripping Springs, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

I want to be respectful of the religious nature of this event, so I am somewhat hesitant to share the first message Cristina sent Zachary. This is real bodice ripper material. But since it was their first communication, here we go. Zac says, “My headline bio on Bumble said ‘Harsh critic of disorganized email inboxes and electronics cords,’ so it's no surprise that my now fiancé’s first message to me was, ‘Thankfully google organizes most of my emails for me. Have you enjoyed living in Austin?’"

Now, again, I am somewhat hesitant to share what they did when they met in person because most people don’t do this kind of thing on a first date. Again, my apologies for the risqué nature of my remarks. Cristina says, “I had not been to a lot of the must-see Austin sites, and he suggested a morning hike and brunch after. It was SO hot outside, and we were very sweaty and smelled horrible after and it makes me laugh reflecting back that we decided to go outside in August in Texas.”

Now, let’s get serious. Every now and then, I officiate a wedding for a couple that is fairly young and has had the good fortune to have not hit any speedbumps in life. I worry a little about that couple, because when you have not been tested, how do you know that you can pass the test? Because, if we are being honest, while marriage is one of the greatest things that can happen to you, like most great things it is not without its challenges. Marriage takes “stick-to-itveness”. Marriage, if you will, takes guts. 

I am not worried about Cristina and Zac, in this regard. Speaking of guts, gut health might not seem like the most romantic subject, but it becomes downright poetic in the story of this couple. 

“He took me to the emergency room and (eventually)… I was diagnosed with Celiac disease… I was freaking out because I had no idea how I was going to eat anything… What was Zac going to do… I didn’t know if… if Zac wanted to change the way he ate too. We… would need to replace a lot of our cooking items as they were contaminated with gluten. 

Zac… made the transition to eating gluten-free easy. He was 100% in on helping me be gluten-free and even decided to go 100% gluten-free in our apartment as that is the best way to keep me safe.”

Zac cites this experience as what cemented his decision to eventually arrive at this moment, and he talks about how this experience had positive knock-on effects on how they lived their lives: “I was ready to help her overcome this new test, and it was at that point I knew that truly loved Cristina and that I would eventually marry her… We began exercising more and eating healthier. We became better chefs going out for food less and less.”

Having been thus tested and thus improved through this test, I am confident that this couple will go the distance. And so when they state why this is their moment, you know this is the real deal. This is, again, downright poetic.

Cristina says, “I want to marry Zac so we can continue moving our relationship forward and build a family together… I want to marry Zac because he is my best friend, he cares deeply about us. And Zac says, “Cristina is my favorite human in the whole world. I want to spend the rest of my life with her, and there’s no one else that I would want to create a family with.”

Timing is Always Key

In June, Reverend John Kellogg and I co-officiated Elaine and Charlie’s wedding ceremony at Omni Barton Creek in Austin, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests: 

Elaine and Charlie are quite a couple. They complement each other’s differences. They work well as a team. They each have deep connections to their families. They relish the adventure.

Elaine and Charlie’s story is rom-com worthy. Charlie chronicles the beginning of their relationship: “I met Elaine on a night out Downtown. She was tall and beautiful, and we saw each other over the crowd. We made eyes and spent that night dancing and laughing. After that, we dated a few times, and it was happily ever after.”

Oh, sorry, I must have gotten mixed up. That is NOT how he ends the story of the beginning of their relationship. Here is what he actually says: “After that, we dated a few times. I remember brunch and mini golf, but I guess cooking her dinner at my place took it too far too fast, and she decided to cut it off by ghosting me.” Oof!

Elaine explains: “I felt I was too young, and that Charlie wanted something too serious... He was really just intentionally trying to date me… Four years later, I saw him on Bumble and recalled what I did. I swiped on him with the intention of apologizing for what I did way back when. We went on our first-second date and we’ve been together since!”

Many couples I have married have had this type of experience (though perhaps not as amusing, Elaine). I invariably will ask them if they would have gotten together at that time, would it have stuck. Almost always, the answer is no. Timing is always key.

Elaine says, “Timing was a big part in my life. When I originally met Charlie I was in no way ready for a marriage. I was pouring myself into my career and traveling anywhere and everywhere with friends. I think this time for me was absolutely critical to grow and develop as an individual and I’m so thankful I got that opportunity. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy a different type of life when I met Charlie and I don’t think I would have appreciated his sense of partnership and adventure until later in life.” 

Charlies reiterates this idea of timing being key: “We then started dating again, and I fell for her so fast. She opened her life to me so quickly. She shared all her friends; anything she was doing I could come as well.  We laughed and joked around a lot; I think that was the most important thing. She was super down to earth and that made everything so much fun. 

It hit me how much I loved her one day specifically. For some reason we decided to do yard work at my place, we spent like the whole evening trimming vines, like seriously until it got dark. In my head I was like who is this girl that was okay with this as a date, and why are we having so much fun just doing yard work? Definitely hold on to this girl, so I did with all my might.”

Timing also helps us understand how lucky we are to have our soulmate. Charlie says, “I always wonder what she sees in me because I am not kidding, I am shocked sometimes that she chose me. This is the best deal I have ever closed. I am so lucky to have her.” 

Elaine reflects this sentiment in what sounds like poetry: “My relationship with Charlie has taught me how to love myself more… He wants me to be genuinely happy and help me achieve my dreams. I have this sense of peace and security when I am with him. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Thursday, June 1, 2023

My Home

Sunday evening (5/14), I officiated Amit and Jacob’s wedding ceremony at Anderson Terrace in Cedar Park, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Just to give you a little peek behind the curtain, I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay. These personal remarks draw on those essays and reading them helps me personalize the entire ceremony too. Amit and Jacob may be the first couple to hand in their essays double-spaced. I was impressed! 

Amit and Jacob’s story starts ten years ago! Amit says, “I met Jacob in 2013 at our high school in Florida. Jacob was never my type or the guy I ever saw myself falling in love with. He was the typical high school boy that kept breaking my heart and then chasing me back.” Yikes.

Now, if you are a perceptive kind of person, you understand that the story did not end there. We are, after all, at their wedding. Indeed, Amit continues, “There was something so special about him though. I strongly believe he is my soul mate. When we met, we both never thought our relationship would be anything but a high school fling. The years flew by and we went to prom together, moved to another state together, and here we are getting married.” 

What was the stumbling block in those initial phases of their relationship? Jacob, as every right-thinking American should, blames Florida. No, just partially, but can you blame him? Here is what he says: “We were off and on in high school mainly because I couldn’t settle down. I was never really comfortable in Florida and was always trying to improve my happiness which actually translates to I made a lot of mistakes. I always knew no one would treat me the way Amit did… Having Amit back was like finding the last puzzle piece the way she completed me.”

What was it that turned this relationship into more than a high school fling? The willingness, ability, and commitment to engage in mutual growth. Jacob says, “I believe Amit and I have a very mature relationship for our age… We’ve improved as people with each other as we grow… We work with each other to ensure we’re both happy and comfortable. We provide each other with a great support system so that we can both grow. I couldn’t see myself where I am now without Amit, and I know she feels the same about me.”

And Amit says, “I desire to marry Jacob because I have realized over the years that Jacob is my home. When I am around Jacob, I feel so calm and satisfied. Jacob sets a perfect example for how my parents always told me I should be treated by a man, no less than a princess. Jacob has been with me through so many challenges and happy moments in my life. He has motivated me to be the best version of myself and he has been my biggest support system. Jacob is kind, compassionate, and thoughtful. I desire to marry Jacob because there is no other person, I can imagine living the rest of my life with.”

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Dharma and Tikkun Olam

Sunday evening, I officiated Krishna and Shimon’s wedding ceremony at The Springs (the Lodge) in Aubrey, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Have you ever heard someone say, “Wow, that’s a strong name!” Well, Krishna and Shimon, those are both strong names. A Hindu deity marrying one of the twelve tribes of Israel; how cool is that!

One of the fascinating facts about these two strong individuals is that through their upbringing, they were able to learn the deeper meanings of their faiths. Not surprisingly, though their faith is different in origin since we are all human, they arrived at similar understandings of the world around them and were able to arrive at similar moral worldviews. 

Krishna tells us: “I have realized that the teachings and lessons from the stories (I grew up with) mattered more than the stories themselves. Hindu legends are all about stories of being a good human being and treating everyone with respect – the idea that we are all connected in our souls to all creatures in the universe.” 

In this, Krishna echoes one of the most basic concepts in Hinduism, Dharma. According to Oxford University’s Gavin Flood, “Dharma means 'duty', 'virtue', 'morality'… and it refers to the power which upholds the universe and society… Dharma is the power that maintains society, it makes the grass grow, the sun shine, and… gives humans the opportunity to act virtuously.”

And Shimon tells us: “I found value in… the broader ideas of Judaism, such as Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), trying to be a good person and (to) make sure that I treat other people and the planet with respect.” 

In his invocation of Tikkun Olam, Shimon echoes even deeper rabbinic teachings. Genesis Raba tells us that the entire reason God gave Israel commandments was to purify people and make them better. And mystical Jewish traditions teach that if there was a moment in the world when no one was studying the Torah it would return to its primordial state.    

Inherent in these traditions is what I started these remarks and all remarks I share at weddings with, the importance of lifelong learning and learning from everyone. Krishna and Shimon have learned from each other and inspired each other to be better human beings.    

Krishna says that “Shimon is one of the kindest people I know, always looking to help others in any way he can. He… pushes me to overcome my fears and expand the boundaries of my comfort zone. He is so self-aware and always willing to work on himself to be a better person and partner… I always want to be a better person when I am around Shimon, and I can truly say I am a better person today because of him. I have loved growing with him over these past few years and feel so lucky that I get to live my life by his side.”

And Shimon says that “Krishna has a unique ability to help me step back and broaden my perspective when I fixate on something, make me feel secure if my confidence wavers, and through her unconditional love and affection, let me know that I am always enough for her. She is my partner and teammate in this game of life, and we both certainly treat life that way… I feel an uplifting bliss in my heart thinking back on our [past adventures]…  and looking forward to the many adventures to come for us… I'm committed to her for life and eager to continue building our future together.”

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Things Are Finally Good

Saturday evening, I officiated Nicole and Dallas’ wedding ceremony at Nicole’s parents’ home in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I believe the lesson that Nicole and Dallas teach us is one that is simple yet profound. We can find love regardless of what age we are, regardless of if we are even looking for it, and there can be no better balm for the soul. In the words of the singer Ed Sheeran, “We found love right where we are… ‘Cause honey, your soul can never grow old, it's evergreen… I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways.”

I believe that this type of love has qualities that love early in life can never reach. Perhaps there is no better description of Nicole and Dallas’s love than the words of Becca Martin in her essay, Loving You Made Me Discover A Part Of Myself I Didn’t Know Existed:

“You brought out a side of me I didn’t know existed because I barricaded it so far down… The part I don’t show, the part I didn’t know I was capable of feeling, is the side you uncovered…

Then you came along, you stripped the shield and broke down the layers that have become my home.

You made me feel things I didn’t know were possible; you made me finally realize why people go insane at the thought of losing the person they love…

But you’re different.

With you, I don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing or embarrassing myself because we just seem to fit.

With you, things are good, with you, things are finally good…

Without even realizing, you’ve started chipping away at the walls I’ve built around my heart, and you’ve finally revealed it. You finally made me feel what it’s like to love again and to not be afraid, and for that, I’m thankful…”

Thank you for this valuable lesson, Nicole and Dallas. May these words continue to embody your love story in the years to come.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Such Kindness

Saturday evening, April 22, 2023, Father Dan Clayton and I co-officiated Lindsey and Justin’s wedding ceremony at the Stonebriar Country Club in Frisco, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

There are wonderful movies about weddings. To be honest, there are less than wonderful movies about weddings. The life-cycle event that there is a paucity of movies about is Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. 

There is one exception that proves the rule, and that is Keeping Up with the Steins, a little-known movie with some very well-known stars. The opening scene, which instigates the drama the movie revolves around, has the Bar Mitzvah boy being pulled into the banquet hall by two very attractive women, on a very realistic model of the Titanic’s bow, his hands stretched wide, screaming, “I’m king of the Torah!”

Now, if you thought that Keeping Up with the Steins has no real-life analogue, you are sorely mistaken. In fact, its release date, May 12, 2006, is downright suspicious. Somebody here might be owed some money. 

Here’s Lindsey: “I was bat mitzvahed in August of 2005 at Shearith Israel in Dallas (the theme was Lindsey’s luau, and my uncles and family friends carried me out on a surfboard).” QED, as the attorneys here might say. Folks, this was all a very long and elaborate way of saying that the reception today is gonna be LIT! 

I love this couple’s approach to their faiths. Lindsey says, “I was always spiritually curious. The facts were never good enough. I always wanted the background and history, the why and the how.” 

That is about the most quintessentially Jewish statement I have ever heard. In fact, the foundational book of our faith – no, not the Bible – the Talmud, is basically an edited form of a bunch of guys taking that approach. Incidentally, this helps explain why the second-best profession, as far as Jewish parents are concerned, is lawyer. Doctor is obviously still number one. Sorry, Lindsey. 

Here’s what Justin says, “She inspires me to be a better man, helps me grow in my faith, and never fails to love stronger than anyone I know. I am so excited to enter into this covenant together.” 

Now, if you analyze that at surface level, it might confuse you. You might think that marrying someone of another faith would weaken you in your faith or, at the very least, be neutral in that respect. 

You would be mistaken. I cannot tell you how many of the couples I have worked with have told me something like what Justin did, that their partner of another faith has strengthened their faith. 

How? Here’s the secret: Justin says, “Our marriage is something that Lindsey and I have discerned intensely for quite some time. I wholeheartedly believe that she and I are, at risk of sounding overly cheesy, meant to be.”

In this, Justin, unconsciously invokes a common Jewish folk idea, contained in that rich Yiddish word, bashert. The Oxford Dictionary defines this word, as “a person's soulmate, especially when considered as an ideal or predestined marriage partner.” 

Now, Judaism (and Catholicism) don’t really believe in predestination, but what Lindsey says does make me wonder: “He knows what I need before I do and can read me the way no one has ever been able to.” She does add, “He isn’t too shabby looking either. I am biased but I think he’s gorgeous.” Folks, she ain’t lyin, so as my kids might say, “Nuff said.” Let’s get this show on the road!”

Friday, March 31, 2023

Such Kindness

Saturday evening, March 25, 2023, Padre Miguel Castaneda and I co-officiated Ale and Steven’s wedding ceremony at Casa Xipe in Mexico City, Mexico. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Ale and Steven met at Tufts University; a school that, according to the bot that wrote the article I consulted on the internet, is comparable to the Ivies. You wouldn’t know that from the way they met, though, from Steven’s telling of the story. 

Alejandra transferred to Tufts her sophomore year, and “for some inexplicable reason,” he says, “Tufts decided to put all the new transfer girls in a large house across the street from the fraternity house where I was living. Upon learning of this stroke of fortune bestowed upon us by the Tufts administration, my friends and I sent over several bottles of (cheap) champagne to make sure these new students felt welcome!” Such kindness, Steven!

The proximity and knowing the same people eventually brought them together at a friend’s birthday party, where they hit it off. Ale made a fascinating discovery: “Steven and I… were in the same Economics class.” Steven’s kindness was revealed again, and this time it didn’t even involve the provision of alcohol! He suggested that Ale and he do their homework together. “I was so impressed by how smart he was,” says Ale. “What Alejandra did not know until many years later,” though, reveals Steven, “is that I had taken the same course the previous year before dropping it – so I already knew half of the course material!” All is fair in love and war, I suppose…

OK, now I didn’t just come here to poke fun at the bride and groom. Love and kindness in a true serious sense ARE central to Ale and Steven as individuals and as a couple. You see this in what they say about themselves, their upbringings, and each other. 

Ale speaks of her family’s strong connection, growing up, to the Brothers of St. John, the religious order Padre Miguel is part of. “Going to the Brothers of St. John was a formative experience,” Ale says. She cherishes the message of the Brothers, which in her words, is, “loving and accepting everyone, treating others with kindness and as you would want to be treated, and serving others in need.”

Steven cites the deep influences of his parents and grandparents. “Family is an important part of who I am and also informs why I am the way that I am,” he says. In that context, the emphasis of his religious upbringing, just as Ale’s was, was on values as paramount, with learning, ethical behavior, and being a good person taking center stage. 

It is no surprise, therefore, that they each see in each other a common trait. So, while Steven says that “Alejandra is incomparably beautiful… absurdly smart... hard-working and driven,” what stood out to me is that he also says that “she is kind. She cares about others more than herself.”

And while Ale says, “Together we are playful, we are adventurous, we are curious… we encourage each other in our careers,” what stood out to me is that she also says that “Steven is kind and attentive and he puts his loved ones above all else.”

Care about others more than yourself. Put your loved ones above all else. What a great maxim for a successful marriage.