Harry & Ron

black and white photo of my shoes

It was 10pm on a Thursday night when I received a call from a guy asking for me to come to his apartment so that he and his partner could marry.

I arrived at 10:20 and met the partner at the gate. I asked him how his night was going. He answered, “interesting.”

I replied, “yeah, for me too.”

We walk into their apartment, they had just bought a wedding cake from the grocery store and had Harry Potter and Ron Weasley figures on top.

I asked them if anybody knew if they were getting married. Nobody did, because this was a last minute decision. The one who called me was scheduled to have a major surgery the next day and he wanted his partner to have the authority to make medical decisions in case complications arose.

Apparently even though he signed legal papers to give his partner that authority, there was an executive order recently that overrides those papers and gives decision making powers to the next of kin.

He did not want his mother making any decisions.

So we stood in their living room that they’ve shares these last 7 years together, and with the dog running around their feet, we had a little ceremony.

When it came time for the vows, the one having the surgery went first and repeated after me. Once he finished all of his vows, his partner went. I would say a phrase and then pause, waiting for him to repeat:

“For better and worse,” [He repeated]

“For richer and poorer,” [He repeated]

“In sickness and in health, [He repeated]

“Until death do us part.” […]

[His eyes swelled]

[The lump in his throat grew]

[I waited]

These words were not hypothetical. They weren’t floating in the clouds. They lived in the dirt where he lived, threatening to change his present and alter his future.

[I waited]

He was pausing, not because he could live up to those words, but because for a moment he realized the future that he was imagining, and he was overcome with sadness.

[I waited]

He tried again and again, but nothing came out.

[I waited]

He fought away the image of death, resolved to be present. He cleared the lump in his throat, mustered up the same strength that one day might be required of him, hoping it won’t be needed anytime soon.

[He repeated]

Coffee Grinds

a white envelope on my officiating book with notes scribbled on it

I was walking out of the bridal suite when the bride asked me if the groom had mentioned anything about coffee. “Coffee?” I replied, but the look of curiosity probably answered her question before I had spoken.

I could see her internal struggle, trying to decide whether to pursue the conversation or drop it. It was 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony, and probably not wanting to add any more stress to the moment, she told me, “oh, never mind. It’s too late.”

I could hear a hint of disappointment in her voice, so I told her that I would look into it if she told me a little more about what was going on.

It turns out that the bride and groom had discussed including a unity ceremony in their wedding. They came up with the idea of pouring coffee grinds from two different countries (Vietnam and El Salvador) into one vase, symbolizing their two lives coming together in marriage. The bride and groom are both first generation US citizens and carry a deep sense of gratitude for their parents, and respect for their immigrant journey. Combining the coffee grinds would illustrate creating the perfect marriage blend 🙂

Here’s a quick rundown of what happened next

I talked to the groom, and he had received the coffee, but it was somewhere in the bridal suite

I went back to the bridal suite and along with 11 bridesmaids we all scoured the room, looking for the coffee until we found it.

They didn’t have a container that they could use to pour the different coffee grinds into during the ceremony, so we found a mason jar that would work.

There was not a table at the ceremony site to display the coffee and mason jar, and there was not a wedding coordinator, so I searched and found a pretty little table from the cocktail hour area and set it up at the ceremony site. –
I didn’t have any script for this part of the ceremony, so with only a few minutes to spare, I jotted down some things to stay to introduce the unity ceremony and the symbolism behind it.

I’m not a coffee drinker, so I’m not sure what you call a *thing* of coffee. Is it a bag of coffee, pouch of coffee, a pound of coffee???? Everything else turned out well 🙂

Bear Hug

cake from the wedding

The groom walked down the aisle, escorting his mother and father to their seat. We were at the start of the wedding, which was taking place at a tiny little venue in Pasadena. Most of the attendees were just waiting for the actual ceremony to begin, unaware of the gem that was about to be given to them.

The groom arrives at his parents’ seats, turns and embraces his mother with an all encompassing bear hug. His arms went below hers, and showing no concern for the delicacy of her dress, he plants his legs wide apart and lifts her off the ground. She is caught completely off guard, and after the initial moment of losing control of her balance and of the situation, she laughs, realizing what her son was up to. She was not frazzled at all.

The groom puts down his mother and then turns to his father. He plants his feet further apart than before. His arms go beneath his fathers and embraces him just as he did his mother. Now, as all of this is going on, I’m thinking that there is no way he is going to try to lift his father too. He is just making us think that he’s going to do it, but I was wrong. His father must have thought the same thing, because he was caught completely off guard when his son picked him up off the ground. We loved it. The attendees got such a kick out of that moment that we all let out laughter and couldn’t stop smiling.

But the show was not over.

Next, one by one, the 4 groomsmen came walking down the aisle. For each one of them, the groom had a unique and elaborate handshake. High five fake out, around the back slap. Fist bump, backhand, forehand, ect… It was so much fun to watch.

Now, if you are starting to get the picture that this groom was a showman who only cared about laughter, you’re wrong. This guy was here to get married to the love of his life and he had a deep appreciation for those who were close to him. This was a sacred and meaningful moment for him. No better moment exhibits this than his vows.

He was marrying his bride who had a young 5 year old son. During his vows, I could see him physically shaking. Some outside spectators could just say that was because of nerves, but I’d like to think there was something else going on. I’d like to think that what he felt in that moment, the immensity of his love, could not be contained. I’d like to think the pressure and buildup of all those feelings inside of him could not be released fast enough with the words that he was speaking, so they were left rattling around within, causing him to shake.

And then he had her son come up and he spoke vows to him. There was the same passion, the same depth, that he had just spoken to his bride. I clearly remember him telling this boy that he will never feel alone or left out. There was something about that phrase. It stuck with me. There was a weight to it, which was different than his other words.

I asked him about it. It was a few days after the wedding and we got together to finish up some paperwork. He acknowledged that those words did come from somewhere deep inside of him. I sensed there was something about those words because he had experienced those things as a kid. He was often alone and left out. And all the pain that he went through is now fuel to make sure another little kid never has to experience that.

cry laughter

Standing on the cliff, overlooking paradise cove, one of the grooms pulls out his vows and attempts to speak them. What comes out of his mouth can best be described as cry laughter.

So moved my this moment, he is unable to speak. These words are so true and tightly wrapped around the inner workings of his chest that they won’t come out. They cling so tightly to his heart that all he can do is try to gather himself before attempting to release them again. These words are so heavy, carrying the depth of a heart in love, dedication, and appreciation, that he can’t even lift them with his voice.

He cries and laughs after each futile attempt to read the first three words in front of him. He laughs at how ridiculous it is that he can’t manage to get through on sentence. He cries because the words carry everything.

I should have known that this would be an emotional moment. As we gathered ourselves on cliff, getting ready to start, he said to his partner, “Wait, before we start can we just have a moment and embrace?” So they did! They hugged and held each other tightly. It was a way of centering themselves, marking the most of the moment, being present. It was a way of anchoring before this big moment.

What should have taken one minute of speaking his vows, ended up taking twelve. In that time I could have turned around and caught the spectacular view of the sun inching closer to the water, but if I would have done that, I would have missed the best view!

Vermont

Imagine getting married in a big red barn with your brother and cousins sitting up on the loft with their instruments. Your family is around, excited and celebrating the day.

Imagine over 45 years later, your kids continue to go back to the same property to visit your brother. All the family from the area come to the farm to eat meals together and retell family stories.

Your grandkids are there running around the barn and swimming in the pond.

So much happiness. So much joy.

This old red barn is slowly deteriorating. It’s getting so bad that it’s no longer safe to go inside. I guess my parents can only glance in from the outside to see themselves standing there, decked out in their wedding attire and bare feet. From the outside they can look in and see family with smiles on their faces. From the outside they can see where the last 45 years started.

But then they can walk into one of many other houses on the property and find many of those same people engaged in fun conversation. They can find nephews and nieces playing games with their kids. They can see their grandkids enjoying the same earth that they have. They can can add many new layers of memories that just sit there under the surface of the earth, exuding joy and warm.

This big red barn may not be in the same shape it was back in the 70s, but there are so many other things thriving…

What a great place to vacation!

Forgetful? Not me!

Today was the elopement of forgetfulness. 

The bride and groom flew all the way from Kentucky to elope at #griffithobservatory but when he went to put on his suit this morning, he realized that he forgot his pants!

The wedding photographer forgot her purse at her house and panicked a little when she saw the signs about paying for parking. I guess you can say she forgot to read the entire sign, for you don’t have to pay before 11am on weekdays. 

After we greeted her in front of the observatory, she placed her bag down, took a photo, and then we all proceeded to the back of the building. We didn’t realize that she left her bag until we were about to start the ceremony, so I ran to grab it. Thankfully it was there. I was more concerned about finding the bomb squad circling the bag than a thief!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I forgot their names, right? No, I did not! I don’t know why so many people like to ask me that question!

However, as I was walking away, the bride held up a phone and asked, “did you forget your phone?

Arrowhead

I arrived early for a small wedding (7 guest total!), so I was able to hangout with the groom for a little before the wedding. One aspect about wedding that I enjoy, is seeing smart, intelligent, successful men outside of their element.

Eyes open a little wider than normal, super aware of their surrounding… dare I say, a little nervous?

Usually it’s never nervous about marrying the love of his life, but just the moment, the attention, the ling build up to this 20 min ceremony

It’s just fun to observe.

My favorite part of their story goes back to after their first date. She wasn’t sure that there would be a future, because she didn’t feel the spark. He, on the other hand, was so positive that she was into him that he planned another date.

I think this is where a motivational speaker would talk about having a positive mindset. I won’t go down that rabbit hole, so I’ll just move along…

Let me tell you what I saw in this couple: gratitude. These guys walk life with a posture of gratitude. You can see it in how they talk to their parents, in how they talk to me, in how they talk to each other.

I noticed it because I find that grateful people are the most interesting people to be around. They see things others don’t. They appreciate life a little more. They’re just more fun to be around.

I’m grateful to have been a part of their wedding.

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!

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