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.”