Sunday, October 30, 2016

Big Deal!

Saturday evening, I co-officiated Claire and Kace's wedding ceremony with Dr. George Mason, at the Four Seasons Dallas at Las Colinas, in Irving, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

It's interesting; we find ourselves in the midst of struggle. And in some ways the point of disagreement at the core of this struggle, is the question of how much control do we really have over our fates. Is success to be attributed mostly to us and our talents? Is failure utterly our fault and worthy of derision? Or perhaps, we must be more humble, and recognize that so much of our good fortune and great privilege, is beyond our control. Perhaps, we must recognize that, conversely, there, but for the grace of God, or karma or luck, go we.

Claire and Kace, and how they came to stand before us here today, remind us of that. After all, it's not that when Claire first lay her eyes on Kace, she was not thinking of him as a good mate. She just didn't think he was a good mate for her...

Listen to Claire in her own words (you really can't make this stuff up...): "Initially, I thought Kace would be the perfect match for my sweet friend, Cori. He was charismatic, unapologetically himself and made everyone around him feel special." She thought she might have some convincing to do, because of, well, Kace's approach during that initial meeting: "I think originally, Kace was trying to network and looking for the next 'big deal'..." She tried to make the match, but was ultimately unsuccessful. "Eventually... I realized there wasn’t a love connection between Cori and Kace. As a failed matchmaker, he ultimately wore me down and asked me on a date…"

Now, Kace picks up the story from here, and with Claire's parents standing so close, he definitely deserves points for honesty: "I can remember telling my dad I was going on a date that night, and he asked, 'Do you really like her?' I responded by telling him, 'Not really. I kind of just feel like taking a girl out to a nice dinner.' [Is this guy a hopeless romantic or what?] We went to Oak for dinner in the Design District, and my views quickly changed. I was immediately attracted to her intelligence, self-confidence, humor, and honesty. I had never found another girl like that, and I still have not."

Now, he definitely redeems himself at the end there, and though we might laugh at the comedy of errors that began with Claire's lackluster matchmaking and continued with Kace's quickly to evaporate cluelessness about the prize he had landed, again, there is a profound message here. Obviously, in all areas of life, we must put one foot in front of the other, and try our best. However, some of the best things in life come to us by no merit of our own. (And, hopefully, as few times as possible for each of us, the converse is true.)

And, so when a wonderful thing happens to us, like Claire realizing that Kace is HER match, like Kace realizing mid-date, that this ONE is different, we are obliged not to be matter-of-fact about it. We are called upon to be joyously thankful and appreciative for the invisible hand of luck or providence guiding us towards that for which we hold no given claim.

Claire, however, says it much better than I ever could, "I guess you could say that Kace stumbled into my life and never quite left. Loud, clumsy, loyal, overly comfortable in a way that often makes me uncomfortable, he is the most genuine, kind and amazing person that I have ever met. Little did Kace know, the day we met he did find a BIG DEAL… a wife!"

Monday, October 24, 2016

You and I

Sunday evening, I officiated Dana and Daniel’s wedding ceremony at the McKinney Flour Mill in McKinney, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One of the things that stood out to me about Dana and Daniel is their gratitude. Gratitude should never be underestimated in its importance, and conversely there is scarcely a worse quality than being ungrateful.

They both express profound gratitude for having found each other. As Dana says, "We just have so much fun being together. Everything feels easy and right." And as Daniel says, "We’ve both had pretty exciting lives, and we’ve enjoyed sharing them with each other."

They not only express gratitude for having found each other. They are profoundly grateful to their parents. As Dana says, "I grew up in a very stable and loving environment, where my curiosity was allowed to flourish...  I was and continue to be very loved, and... incredibly fortunate." And as Daniel says, "Mom and Dad were always hard at work... managing to never leave my brother or me wanting for anything.  Their work-ethic and strong wills - I tear-up just thinking of..." And, both Dana and Daniel are profoundly grateful that their families have come together and love and appreciate each other. As Daniel says in a slightly folksy turn of phrase, "Our families get along like peas and carrots!" As someone who has officiated many weddings, I will tell you, THAT is nothing to "sneeze" at.

Dana and Daniel's gratitude reminded me of one of the most meaningful readings I have ever found. It so wonderfully expresses how despite the challenges we each face, how grateful we should be for, well, just being. This small piece of prose is poetry-like, which might be surprising, since it was written by a scientist, Richard Dawkins:

"The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds..."

Dana and Daniel not only won the lottery of birth, they won the lottery of excellent parenting, the lottery of great families and the lottery of love. And so, they are utterly and profoundly grateful for this great fortune.

It is, therefore, hard not to pray that Daniel's wish for their future come true, "Perhaps one day we’ll be sitting on a porch swing - or some other fantastic cliché - and be able to look back at our life and just grin. That’s all any of us can ask."

Not a bad "ask". Not a bad "ask" at all.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

No Better Time than Right Now

Saturday evening, I co-officiated Dominique and Larry’s wedding ceremony, with Reverend Rhonda Anders, at Chateau Lemoyne, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are the words I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay. Some approach this task with more relish than others, like Dom here, so much so that they not only write a well written story, but write in the third person! And sometimes people write essays that so speak for themselves in terms of what one can learn from them, that my task becomes one of just finding the right quotes, and the couple's words speak for themselves. THIS is one of those times.

I was especially intrigued by how Dom wrote about how she and Larry met:

"Larry came into Dom’s world out of nowhere. The first time they met was at a friend’s birthday party, which the meeting didn’t really stick on them until the second time they were re-introduced. [You might need to get your eyes checked, Larry... - DSG] When they met for the second time they spent the whole night talking about hip-hop music... They ended up walking and talking for 18 blocks that night.

Dom found out from that night what she continues to love so much about Larry to this day: Larry’s drive to win all of his goals in life is an inspiration, Larry’s confidence in himself, his transparency and love of the future to come, and the most important... Larry’s ability to not only be kind to people he cares about but to everyone he meets."


Speaking of love, listen to Larry's simple yet profound statement about their mutual feelings for each other: "Our love is strong and it is hard to describe." And, though Dom highlights his confidence, he is not too shy to share a vulnerability some guys would hide: "There are many thing in life that are uncertain or we are unsure of, but with Dom and I, it is the one thing I am sure of."

Double wow!

Now, I have the privilege, in asking people to write their essays, to ask what might be uncouth coming from anyone else: Why do you want to get married, and why now?

Larry says, "Besides Dom being the one I want to spend the rest of my life with, for lack of a better answer, it just feels 'right'... We have been through a lot together and when I proposed last May, everything felt perfect and Dom felt the same way... Not only will the day itself be memorable but it signifies our future together and what is to come."

Dom, again speaking in the third person has a pretty cool answer, an almost mystical one, in fact: "Dom believes that Larry coming into her life was a gift from God. It didn’t have to be now or ever but as long as she could smile like she does when she wakes up next to him every morning... there is no better time than right now."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

You Have to Keep Climbing

Saturday evening, I co-officiated Aly and Andrew’s wedding ceremony, with Monsignor Lawrence Frederick, at Junior League in Little Rock, Arkansas. Here are the words I shared with them and their guests:

I am firmly committed to the idea that the wedding should be about the couple. However, I feel like I just have to say first, thank you Aly and Andrew, for making Father Fred part of this wedding. He is a legendary figure at Andrew’s alma mater, and it is an honor to stand here by his side. I fully intend to work this sentence into most of my conversations from now on, “When I was talking to my friend, who worked on the Mercury project…”

Aly and Andrew’s shared alma mater, University of Arkansas (Go, Razorbacks!) is central to their love story, since that is where they met. Andrew confesses that up to the point he met Aly, “My grades were always good but I was having a rough first couple of years because I felt as though something was missing.” (Hmmm… What could that be?) He continues, “My good friends were hanging out with a group of people and I ended up tagging along one day. While meeting up with that group of people at a football tailgate in Little Rock, I got to really know Aly Hueber. We hit it off well and I even gave up going to the game to get to know her more.” Well, if football in Arkansas is anything like it is in Texas, all I can say is Oy Vey! He says that, “She was something special.” His evidence, by the way, is solid: “She found me funny, interesting, and entertaining!” (Bright girl!) He says that he felt the exact same way about her.

Interestingly, their stories of their first few years at college parallel each other, but Aly has an interesting prelude to the story Andrew tells about that fateful day he ditched football for her, “I entered my freshman year and rushed a sorority… and made some...  amazing friends during my first two years in school. By my junior year I had a circle of friends that hung out about every weekend. I heard through these friends about "Sprick" quite a few times but hadn't met him. At a birthday party… I met this mystery guy for the first time and didn't think much of it.” (Ouch!)
Don’t worry; quickly their stories converged, “Andrew and I talked and laughed the rest of the day. I was amazed at how genuine and interested he was with me. He even skipped going into the football game to stay and spend time with me and my friends. I knew there was something different about him. I heard from Andrew the next day which confirmed he was different from most of the college guys I had met before. He wanted to see me again.”

Pretty quickly, these two feel for each other, and it wasn’t long before they knew that they were destined to be together and marriage was in the cards. And when this engineer proposed, his proposal – you can’t make this stuff up – centered on the idea of Pi. “He proposed on Pi Day, March 14,” Aly says, “and gave a beautiful speech about Pi being an infinite number similar to our infinite love. This was the moment I had been waiting for, but even better.”

Now, Aly and Andrew had one more symbolism, that was hidden in that proposal, so hidden they may not have even realized it. You see, I skipped over the time they took to build their relationship. During this time, they not only made the adjustments necessary to turn two into one. They even passed through the crucible of a long distance relationship, not only made it work, but saw it bring them even closer. They recognized what most sensible couples do. To make a relationship last, you must be prepared to embark on a continuous journey. The engagement, the wedding, and all subsequent milestones, are stops on the way up to the summit.

Now, like most Arkansans, both Aly and Andrew call the mountain upon which they became engaged, Mount Magazine. However, the United States Geological Survey refers to it as Magazine Mountain. Why? Because a “mount” refers to a peak, while a “mountain” refers to a ridge. (Thank you, Wikipedia!) Magazine Mountain is a ridge. On Magazine Mountain, you have to keep climbing to get to the summit, Signal Hill. That, my friends, is Aly and Andrew’s reminder, or signal, if you will, to us today: If you want your relationship to stretch to eternity, you have to keep climbing.

We Still Fly Together

Friday evening, I officiated Dana and Ethan’s wedding ceremony at Via Vecchia Winery, in Columbus, Ohio. Here are the words I shared with them and their guests:

I was inspired to write these remarks in the hometown of Picasso, Malaga. I was listening to a song, Let Your Hair Down by Magic, and it reminded me of Dana and Ethan and their relationship.

You see, one of the funny things about Dana and Ethan, and if you know them well, you know this, is that the origin story of their relationship is very honest, and decidedly unromantic... It might even be called utilitarian. Listen to Dana's description: "It all started at my friend, Megan’s, bachelorette party. One of my best friends, Alicia, was always on the prowl for tall guys for me and decided to ask this group of girls if any of them knew any single, tall guys. Right then Sharon (Ethan’s sister) said, “Uhh yeah, my brother!'" So, when the guy in the song says to his girl, "To me you are more than just skin and bones," well, actually the plight of the tall gal, even one as stunning as Dana, often revolves around most guys' basic egos regarding the length of said skin and bones.

Now, Dana's next words about this love story were really reminiscent of this song: "I’ve never felt more comfortable, confident, and truly loved in my whole life. He is funny, hard-working, giving, and protective in the best way possible." It's almost like she hears him saying the words of the song to her:

"Baby let your hair down
Let me run my fingers through it
We can be ourselves now
Go ahead, be foolish
No one's on the clock now
Lying in this simple moment
You don't gotta worry now
Just let your hair down"

Ethan himself, in his own words, talks about how in Dana he found what he had long been searching for, "companionship, someone to love and share life with, grow and learn together... I know I've finally met the right person... (with) a great heart.”

And lest you think these kids are starry eyed and naive, they have that one essential component in every lasting relationship - they drive each other just a tiny bit crazy. As, Dana admits, in what you know is mutual (somehow, us guys sometimes forget this) "He puts ups with my flaws... and shows me that he loves me all the time." Like the lover in the song says, "Even though... It's not always heaven, we still fly together."

So, we started this origin story with honesty, and with honesty we approach its conclusion. Because, one of the most important aspects critical to a marital relationship, is the ability to be yourself with your partner, to shed all pretenses. You have to have that one person, that regardless of how you are feeling or how your day has gone, with whom you can let your hair down, and say, "You don't gotta worry... It's only us here, only us here..."

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A New Dream

Saturday afternoon I officiated Monica and Ben’s wedding ceremony at the River Ranch Stockyards, in Fort Worth, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Sometimes, when I look out upon the world of today, I am struck by a seeming lack of empathy. Empathy, according to that great fount of all human knowledge, Wikipedia, is "the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being's frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another's position." Arguably, one could place many of the problems we have encountered, from the Great Recession at home to ongoing conflicts abroad, at the doorstep of an inability or incapacity to "place oneself in another's position."

No doubt social scientists are and will continue to study why this happens in a society. In the meantime, I would like to posit a hypothesis. Perhaps, one of the reasons for this is that we, in American society, in the past few decades, have placed so much emphasis on "things" and their acquisition, that material goods have displaced some of our capacity for empathy. After all, as we are discovering in social psychology, much like your internet use, human emotions have only so much bandwidth, and if that bandwidth is taken up mostly by a love of things, it might leave less room for the love that Monica and Ben's faiths command us to have for our neighbors.

This is why spending time with Monica and Ben was reassuring to me. This is not only because in our first face to face, as opposed to FaceTime meeting, Ben showed up with a t shirt from a homelessness related charity event! (I spend most of my time on homelessness related issues, so I liked that.)  No, it is because this is emblematic of the passion this couple has for social justice, a passion that is central to their relationship, and which they put into practice.

Listen to Ben: "Monica (is) passionate, smart, funny, beautiful, and has a strong sense of purpose... Monica has made me a more kind, caring, thoughtful, and aware person. (Her) passion for social justice has helped me to better understand my privileges and how I can be a more aware and [wait for it... - DSG] empathetic person..."

Monica's choice of profession was guided by this very passion. As she says, "I’m... dedicated to teaching and working towards creating a more equitable education system in America..." (Well, you don't hear that every day!) And teachers love learning, and so she says that one of the things that attracted her to Ben (aside from his rugged good looks, of course...) was "his intelligence and his love of reading and learning..." True love of learning, implies that you are willing to, nay compelled to, ask questions, and not just settle for the way things are. So, not surprisingly, Monica observes that through Ben's love for her and for learning, he, in her words, "embraced my passions and supports my desire to make the world a more just place," and this made her love him even more.

In this, these two embrace the best of what each of their faiths has to offer. It is almost a given, that some American Catholics may have a point or two they disagree with the Church on, yet happily, especially in the last few years the Church has chosen to side with the powerless to the consternation of the powerful. And not for nothing does the old joke contend, that American Jews may live like Episcopalians, but still vote like Puerto Ricans.

Perhaps it is the very fact that Monica and Ben's generation came of age, just as we brought our world economy, obsessed with things and oblivious to people, crashing down, that they are and may continue to be, kinder to people, and less concerned with things. As we rebuild that world, some fret that they seem less eager to relive what we thought to be the American Dream. I don’t. I believe they wish to fashion a more inclusive dream. That dream seeks to enfranchise rather than disenfranchise, share rather than possess, use rather than consume.

And the empathy inherent in this new dream is just the kind conducive to a successful loving marital bond. So, Monica and Ben, continue in your relationship with each other and with the world to share, "the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being's frame of reference," and you will have it made...