Remember my Value

“You helped me remember my value.” For some reason those words that she spoke to her groom hung in the air a little longer for me.

As much as we want to think we’re strong and secure individuals, the people around us influence how we view ourselves. How we’re treated in our most intimate relationships (parental and romantic) have a profound power to affirm or warp the perception of our inherit value.

I remember sitting with a counselor talking about my crumbling world. I can’t remember what I was talking about, but my framework must have been so depleted and incredibly skewed that he had to stop me to ask, “what makes you valuable?” 

I couldn’t answer. 

I didn’t have an answer.

So we went on for 30 mins with him asking me questions, trying to draw out of me a new perspective. In that time he slowly gave me a new framework to view myself, as he had me list out things, one after another, about why I have value.

As I think back to that moment, my eyes begin to swell. I was was at a place where I was more broken than I’d ever been, but I was fortunate enough to have someone who spoke something powerful into me. That hour session was a turning point, it began a process of putting together and build back up. It was place where healing found its roots and dug in. It was place where I could look past my immediate wounds and see family and friends who saw value in me.

So there I was at this elopement in Pasadena, listening to her speak that one phrase in her vows. 

She said so much in such few words.

Impromptu Elopement

Last Thursday I received a call from a guy who wanted to get married that weekend. They were planning on getting married in 2020, but earlier in the day she received news from the doctor that shook their world. She had cancer!

He apologized for this appearing so unromantic, but they needed to get her on his insurance. And they needed the marriage certificate ASAP!!!

It is always a little painful to tell someone that there are others who can provide better services that fit their needs, but that’s what I did. They needed a certified copy as proof of their marriage, but Los Angeles County takes 6-8 weeks to process a license and mail the certificate. I told them that going to another county or hiring an officiant who can issue licenses from Orange County would expedite the process by weeks. I could only provide them with a notarized copy on that day, which I wasn’t sure would be sufficient. After talking to his HR department, he realized that it was, so he called me back on Friday and we set a time to meet on Saturday. 

Last Saturday we met at Griffith Park Observatory at Sunset. They ubered, but I didn’t, so I had to park at the bottom of the hill and hike 1 mile up (because there’s never any available parking up there). I had to keep a fast pace to get there on time and I kept on repeating their names saying, “‘Bride’ and ‘Groom’ need you, Jacob. You can’t stop! Keep going!”

They were the best motivation ever to climb up that hill!

We tried to get away from the crowd, so we created a little spot amongst some shrubs below the Observatory, where they committed themselves to each other in marriage.

It was a really beautiful moment. Words carry a different weight when cancer is involved, right? When you say, “in sickness and in health” or “Until death do us part”, at the forefront of your mind is the reality of that possibility.

There is something beautiful in seeing two people come together in crises. When life gets hard, he doesn’t run, but, in fact, he does the opposite. He grips harder. He knows that the next few months to years, he will have to be the one who supports her, who takes her to the hospital, who is with her when she’s nauseous, who listens to her struggle with mortality.

What a beautiful moment! 

What an inspiring moment!

Yes, you’re getting married for a very practical reason, health insurance, but I can’t name anything more romantic!

Juggler

The ceremony was about to start and I was standing under the arch with the ocean behind me when the videographer walked up and asked to check the recording device that he put in my inside jacket pocket. This wasn’t a normal mic that videographers give me where it fits into my pocket and then the mic clips to the outside of my jacket. No, this thing was huuuugggghheee!

He never planned on me having to wear this recording device. He was going to plug it into the sound system and record my voice that way, but 2 mins before I walked down the sand aisle, he asked me to put it in my pocket because he lost faith in the sound system.

It was clunky and big (as seen in the photo), and it barely fit in my pocket It reminded me of when I was a little kid and I dressed up as He-Man for halloween by stuffing socks in my shirt. The couple wanted everything recorded and even though I could have refused this pocket stuffer, I knew I had to try everything I could to preserve this wedding day for them.

So when the Videographer came back up to me and listened to the recording, I knew that the situation had grown to full crisis mode by the look on his face. Because the device was in my pocket, it recorded all the times it rubbed against the cloth of my jacket, which created a scratching sound in the recording.

Wanting to be helpful, I offered to hold it exactly how you see in the photo. I had the book in my left hand, with the recorder on top, stabilized with my thumb, while in my other hand was the actual microphone. This setup worked fine for most of the ceremony. There were a few awkward moments. When they were speaking their vows, instead of closing my book and holding it to the side, I keep it open and in front of me so that the device could pick up their voices. Also, when I ask for the rings, usually I close my book and place it under my arm and then hold the rings in my left hand, but since I couldn’t get rid of the recorder which was still on the book, I had to improvise.

Holding the device only caused a few minor inconveniences, but it was better for me to bare that burden instead the couple not being able to have audio for their video of the ceremony. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but wedding ceremonies aren’t about me, right? For weddings, you do whatever you can to make the day special for the couple.

Oh, also, the coordinator wanted me to pick up a bubble machine and turn it on as they walked out the aisle at the end of the ceremony. You can say that my hands were full on Saturday.

But let me leave you with my favorite part. They did their own vows, and one of the grooms started listing a few things that he loves doing with the other. It was a light and funny list that brought laughter and deep sighs. It brought me into their relationship and I was able to feel the joy of their friendship. But then he said, “these [what I just listed] are things I love about our relationship, but these are not the reasons I love you.” Then he had this dramatic pause, before continuing while his eyes began to swell with water, “I love you because you’re always there for me, because…” and then he went on and on with a most beautiful list that unfortunately I can’t remember because I was so focused on juggling a book, microphone, recorder, and bubble machine!

Not Teens Anymore

“You first met me when I was just a teen and didn’t know what love was at the time. We both knew that we saw something in each other but we were not mature enough at the time to understand it….”

Excepts from her vows a week ago.

As they were first telling me their story, I was a little uncomfortable. Not because she went to Starbucks to meet up with his friend and how she instantly know that it was him who she wanted to get to know instead.

It was her lying about her age. 😬

You see she was 14 and he was 5 years older. Once he found out and realized that this definitely wouldn’t work out, he broke it off. They did remain distant friends, sometimes staying in touch while other times not…that is until 4 years ago (over 15 years later.)

I remember sitting down to write their ceremony and spent a lot of time contemplating how do I address the origins of their relationship, but once I started writing, it flowed pretty easy, because they’re such a great couple.

In middle of her vows, she thanked his parents and grandparents for creating such a generous and chivalrous man.

And he is. And she’s super incredible as well. As I heard their whole story and how they’ve been each other’s strength and motivation, it was hard not to like these two. 

One part of their story that I admire and respect so much is their path to sobriety. It was so moving to hear them talk about doing it together… about the support and strength they have with each other. It’s powerful to hear stories of transformation. To me they’ve become a source of inspiration. Anyone who is struggling with addiction, here is beam of hope, a ray of light.

They’ve really created a beautiful life together and I’m so grateful to have had the privilege of marrying them. 

***Side note: here’s me sitting down taking a selfie before the ceremony starts. I like to get to the wedding venue an hour before the start time, so there’s often a lot of waiting around