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Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

Another Destination Wedding has come and gone, and this one went WAY too fast!

I know I say this all of the time, but I am just so fortunate in that every one of my wedding couples is amazing – but truly, Eden and Eduardo were such an amazing couple in so many ways.  It was such a great experience getting to know them, and to be such a special part of their most special day.

Eden & Ed live in Washington, DC, and they were referred to me by Rabbi Lev at http://www.interfaithfamily.com.  As soon as Eden contacted me, we both knew right away we were going to be the most perfect match, and we definitely had that assumption right on all counts!  Eden has one of those personalities that just comes right through the phone and you imagine that girl in junior high school who was just bursting with enthusiasm sitting next to you with a GREAT BIG SMILE on her face, and energy that would last for days.

Well – that’s EXACTLY what you got with Eden!  As I was writing notes about the feelings I had about her and Eduardo as we had our conversations on the phone, I kept thinking “earthy, warm, syrup-y, and sweet”.  Again – I totally had it right!

Getting to the wedding venue wasn’t quite as easy as forming the initial connection, but it was a fun and coversation-sparking adventure nonetheless.  They were married at The Villa Montana, in a small town, in the north-western part of the island, called Isabela.  It was about a 2 hour car ride from the San Juan airport.  Well, I was supposed to depart Fort Lauderdale at 6am (ick), but I just happened to check on my flight the night before, and found out that flight no longer existed.  I was sooooo upset, because they were having the rehearsal dinner that evening and wanted me there.  The flight I was booked on now left at 11am, arriving in SJU at 3.  That should have put me there for the rehearsal around 5:30.  Right.

As I made my way off the plane, I went to the pickup area, expecting to be met by a driver, but nobody was waiting for me.  (what a lonely feeling!!)  I called the hotel, and she began checking, and came back and told me the driver was there – but his van had just been TOWED AWAY, and he was trying to get it back.  After about an hour or more, he finally arrived to pick me up – and we were on our way – in Friday night rush hour traffic.  UGH.

At 6:30, I finally arrived at the beautiful little Villa Montana in Isabela.  Paradise.

This place had the small, intimate feel of a guest house, but was loaded with amenities and beauty.  I was immediately greeted by many of her family members as I was rushed to the rehearsal dinner on the beach, and there was Eden, and I just fell in love with her – as I knew I would.

BBQ at Villa Montana Friday night

That night, I got to know many of her guests, and met her family, as well as Eduardo’s.  Ed’s family is from Puerto Rico, and were the most wonderful, gracious, and appreciative family I have met in a long time.  I just knew the wedding would be amazing.

The next morning, I was able to spend quite a bit of time with Eden and Ed’s family and friends over breakfast on the beach.  We spoke for hours about Eden and Eduardo, their personalities, experiences, and their lives.  They told me incredible stories that really helped paint a perfect picture of my newest favorite couple, and I was able to create a perfectly blended, earthy, universalist-style ceremony that was a perfect match for their personalities.  We even re-wrote the words to The 7 Blessings, taking the religious language down a notch, and focusing on the meaning and appreciation of life.  It was quite beautiful.

Eden and Ed, Sister Sacha and Dad

Watching Eden and Ed before me, as I performed their marriage, was the perfect culimination of the experience.  Standing before me was not only a couple in love, but 2 best friends, laughing, touching, giggling, beaming, and kvelling together.  Knowing their closest friends and family were behind them, being witnesses to this magical moment, you could see the joy in their faces, and their hearts, as they spoke their vows to each other.

Certainly, the dinner party on the beach was also quite fun, and I had the most wonderful time with their friends and family.  To everyone I met at the wedding – thank you for making me feel SO comfortable, and welcomed, and thank you for helping me create another beautiful wedding.  Bob & Carol – thanks for the ride the next day to the airport, you are a wonderful couple!  Paula & Ira – thank you SO much for your hospitality – and Eden & Ed – Mazel Tov and Buena Suerte.  You are a beautiful couple that I will remember forever.  See you in DC in May!

Eden and Ed, married at the beach!

B’Shalom,

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I tried all the way home to write my blog entry about this past weekend, but I have come to the definite conclusion that some feelings simply cannot be put into words.  Such is the case for my experience in St. Maarten this past weekend, with Keith & Faith, their families, and friends.  And, if I wrote about every bit of the weekend that I felt was memorable – you would be here reading for another hour, and there was just no way I could cut it down, so I’m going to try to stick to the highlights – just know that there was so much more than what you will find here, and what happened in those moments will be memories I cherish forever.

Keith emailed me a couple months ago, and I knew immediately he was a mensch.  Just from the way he spoke about Faith, the wedding, and their lives, I knew I had to work with this couple.  And after my conversation with Faith, we all knew it was going to be amazing.  Looking back, this couple brought as much, if not more joy to my life, as I hope I brought to theirs, and once again, I fell in love.

At the villa

At the villa

Keith & Faith were married at La Salamandre, on the French side of St. Maarten.   It was the most beautiful villa on an amazing piece of property on the island, about 20 minutes from the hotel many of us stayed at – The Royal Sonesta on Maho Beach.  I have to say, the Villa was definitely the highlight of the weekend – other than the wedding itself.  But, what seems to rank my wedding experiences right up in the top 4 (as this one is definitely ranked up there!) is the people.  From Doug and Monica in St. Croix, to Dan & Rita in Mexico, to Felix & Evelina in Aruba, and now Keith and Faith in St. Maarten, it is absolutely the people I fall in love with.  And this wedding was no exception.

Pool

Pool

The weekend was full of casual, laid back celebration.  Keith and Faith were smart enough to realize that everyone was going to have a different idea of fun.  This was a very large crowd – 75 people, and many were friends of Keith’s Mom and Dad – Marge & Ken, and some were friends of Faith’s Mom – Vicky, and the rest were friends of Keith & Faith’s, so the crowd was diverse.  But, they managed to keep it interesting and fun, while being so easy going.  Friday night, we went to Pineapple Pete’s for dinner, but before, I met a lot of Marge & Ken’s closest friends at a little before party in their room.  My favorites of their friends were Mike & Jane, Linda & Barry, and Steve & Barbara, because they were such amazing and FUN people.

On Saturday – something terrible happened – I lost my voice.  Yes, I had gone to St. Maarten with a bit of a cold, and the cold/damp air conditioning went right into my lungs, and my voice was history.  Quite a panic when you’re the Cantor.  But, with laryngitis and all – this group of 75 made me feel so awesome, because it was clear that we were all so connected, that it just didn’t matter.  And then, to make matters worse – Vicky, Faith’s mom, fell and sprained her ankle, so there was quite a bit of irony in the whole situation!

Saturday night was a riot!!  We went to Cheri’s Cafe, right across from the hotel, a great open air restaurant with the most hysterical live entertainment!!  I can’t even begin to describe this night, but some pics just might give you an idea of how much fun we had!   It was a highly interactive evening, to say the least!!

The men - or - um - the women

The men - or - um - the women

I was very lucky to have found another “soul sister” on this trip – Dionne, who is Faith’s sister.

At the party

At the party

We were joined at the hip, from the moment we were checking in at the hotel – and realized who each other was.  I had so much fun with Dionne, and I don’t know what I would have done without her!  On Saturday and Sunday,  I had some very meaningful opportunities to connect with Faith & Dionne’s Mom, Vicky.  Sometimes, I get a very strong feeling that there is a greater purpose for why I end up in certain places, and my relationship with Vicky was one of those moments.  Vicky and I each had highly noteworthy disabilities this weekend – I lost my voice, and she sprained her foot.  Can you imagine?  A wedding where the Cantor has no voice, and the Mother of the Bride can’t walk her daughter down the aisle?  You might think it would be a disaster, right?  No way, it was amazing.

The wedding itself was magnificent.  From the caterers, to the steel drum band, to the dj, the bartenders, and the photographers (they were incredible – I can’t wait to link to them and see their photos!) this wedding was one of the most unique I have ever attended.  It was so private, and personal, and so much of Keith and Faith went into planning this wedding.  Faith has an very interesting story about her background, but suffice to say that she did not have a Hebrew name, so it was very important to her that before signing the Ketubah, she had a Hebrew name.  So, just before the ceremony, we gathered in the big living room, and I blessed Faith with the Hebrew name of Ruth – her grandmother’s name, with whom she is incredibly close.  We signed the Ketubah, took a few more pics, and then proceeded to the wedding ceremony.

It was here, on this dock, as Keith and Faith stood in front of me, that I had the most profound, meaningful experience in my career as an officiant.  But, it is one of those spots that words cannot describe.  As Keith and Faith stood in front of me, their loving gestures and care and sensitivity for each other overwhelmed me.  Now, you might think that the fact that I do weddings all the time, and see brides and grooms in love together, but Keith and Faith – they were different.  There was one moment in particular (I can’t wait till Judy sends me this photo because she captured it) that they just both instinctively leaned their heads in to rest on each other, while they were wrapped in my tallit, and the look on both of their faces brought me to my own tears – they were so hard to hold back.  It was a truly moving experience, and I am so thankful that we were brought together.

Now – the party – It was just so much fun, and I’ve never seen everyone have such an amazing time together.  The older crowd got down and dirty like the younger crowd, and everyone was having a ball.  On each table at dinner, Faith and Keith put the most unique flavored rums that everyone was taking shots of – which obviously contributed to a wild and crazy night – again – some things just don’t need to be repeated – but a good time was had by all!

The weekend review would not be complete without mentioning Keith’s brother Brian.  Brian – you are one of the MOST personable, bright, and fun people I have ever met.  Love you!

Dionne, Brian and me

In the end, I received two of the most amazing compliments of my career.  Marge, Keith’s mom came up to me, and shared her thoughts with me that were the most moving I have ever heard.

At Pineapple Pete's

At Pineapple Pete's

Marge- I can’t wait to be your friend, and I’m coming to Woodstock to visit!!  Steve, one of Marge & Ken’s friends, is an Orthodox man, a Chabad-nik, and he sat down next to me to tell me that while he disagreed in general with marriage outside a synagogue, he recognized that there was a need, and that he was so happy I was there for Keith and Faith, and he truly made me feel like I am accomplishing my goal.

Rabbi Lipson told me one day…”You can’t change the world”.  I know I can’t.  But, I can be different.  And if I can help one couple avoid being married by the Rabbi that married me, I’ve made enough of a difference in the world.

When I left the party, to return to the hotel, Faith hugged me and told me she loved me.  Keith and Faith – I love you both, so incredibly much!  I can’t wait to share more moments of joy with your family.  Thank you for bringing me into your lives, opening up and sharing your most intimate thoughts, and bringing so much joy to the world.  I miss you all!

B’Shalom,

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I just read Rabbi Lev Ba’esh’s post over on www.Interfaithfamily.com, one of my most favorite Interfaith relationship resources, and was touched by how similar our experiences and positions are on performing Interfaith ceremonies.

Anyone who reads my story on my website, www.mypersonalcantor.com, knows that when I married Wayne, my Christian ex-husband, the list of available Rabbis to perform our wedding was a very short one, at best.  I can’t remember his name, nor do I have a good memory of him at all.  Looking back, he struck me as someone who would marry a cat to a dog, for a check.  Uninspiring, to say the least, but he certainly did not help the Jewish factor in my marriage, as my husband formed a strong impression about him, and related that impression to the faith, overall.  Bad mistake.

I can’t even begin to recount the numerous run-ins we had about how judgmental, critical, conditional, and exclusionary the Jewish faith was, which couldn’t be farther from the truth – but you know as well as I do, that perception IS 100% of our reality.  Sad.

Today, I, like Rabbi Lev, feel I have a completely different impact on the families I touch by my ceremonies.  Also, like him, I am more frequently approached by the Jewish guests than the Non-Jews, with comments about how much I taught them about their own faith.  As Jews, we learn to do and say very certain things, but never learn why.  We don’t learn the meaning in our lives, we don’t learn why.  Our traditions are beautiful.  The fundamental message of our religion is “Do the right thing”.  Read the words to the V’Ahavta – the prayer that follows the Shema, the most important prayer a Jew can utter.  The words tell us to love God, to speak of Him, remember Him, and take him with us in our hearts every day.  If we do that, we will surely make decisions that prove that we were made in his image.  We are beautiful people, with a rich, touching history, and being Jewish is a magnificent thing.  Unfortunately, too many people aren’t shown the beauty of being Jewish.

My ceremonies include lessons about why we do what we do, and what the meaning is in our lives.  I always try to relate a Torah portion or lesson from the Torah in my ceremonies, so everyone can take a piece of God home with them.  In this way, nobody feels excluded, nobody feels alienated, and even the Jews learn just a little more about our beautiful faith than they knew before.

The end result, hopefully, is that everyone who attended that wedding, or even Bar or Bat Mitzvah feels the beauty that eminates from Jewish lessons.  When a couple has decided to marry, it is not up to the officiant to judge that decision, but it is our responsibility to strongly and proudly represent our faith.  It is up to us to hold our heads up and take a stand for why this Interfaith family should NOT turn their backs on Judaism.  It is up to us to put being Jewish in their hands, however we can make that happen.  We should NOT try to force anything on anyone, but I just don’t see how strongly representing something so beautiful could possibly be looked down upon.  If we believe that God brings man and woman together, what gives Rabbis the right to second-guess his decision?

Jewish, done right, is a magnificent thing.  Judaism is the cornerstone of my life.  It is my road map to God.  It is my light that guides me, teaches me right from wrong, and holds me up when all else fails me.  Why wouldn’t I help someone else have that feeling?  We cannot be afraid as Jews.  We cannot run away.  We couldn’t run away in the past, and we must not run away today.  We must stand up proudly, and teach our Interfaith couples that Judaism is beautiful, and can be the light that guides us all.  Thanks, Lev.  You reminded me again how amazing it is that we have the opportunity to do what we do.  I am so grateful.

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This has most certainly been a whirlwind 2 weeks! I just returned from Aruba, and WOW – was it an amazing trip, for so many reasons! First of all – I simply cannot believe that I forgot my camera, so before I even start writing – I want to say THANKS to Vlad for copying his pictures to my computer last night so I didn’t have to come home empty handed.

So – let me start with some background. I did the wedding for Felix and Evelina at the Riu Palace, Aruba.

Evelina contacted me several months ago, because she had heard that I had done the wedding for Dan and Rita in Mexico, and she is very good friends with Rita’s sister, Yelena. Oddly enough, while Dan and Rita had their wedding at the Riu in Mexico, Felix and Evelina chose the Riu in Aruba. And it was a great choice!

I arrived in Aruba at 3pm. Evelina was greeting some of her friends on the front steps of the hotel as I arrived, and we knew each other immediately! We all got introduced, and I went to settle into my room, before our scheduled meeting together. We had lunch, and sat down to discuss the details of the wedding ceremony, and since they hadn’t ever sent me their profile, we had some catching up to do. But, even in the first five minutes of knowing both of them, I knew this was going to be a weekend to rival Mexico! (Sorry Rita!!)

They are the cutest, sweetest couple, with SUPER fun friends, and beautiful family. The family dynamics were a bit different than Mexico (and I suppose I should stop comparing at all) but, there were so many similarities as well. We connected instantly, and it was a really great chance for me to start getting to know Felix as a person as well. I had more opportunities to talk to Evelina, so it was bonding time for Felix and me! And I really enjoyed that opportunity to get to know him better.

We were very happy because they had an island DJ, but, the DJ didn’t have the traditional Jewish music medley that we typically play, and with some hunting, I was able to get them a copy of the tunes. We quickly sent the music to the DJ, and went on with the night. We all met in the Don Nicolas restaurant for dinner (27 of us) and I got to meet all the family and guests. Later that night, I had been in the lobby checking email, and on my way through the lobby bar to the elevator to my room – I bumped into F&E, and their good friends Vlad & Tanya, Shilana, and Max & Anna. They were having some festive cocktails – and they invited me to join them. We had so much fun, and I felt like we really had a great time connecting together!

Saturday was a beautiful day and we all enjoyed the magnificent pool and beach before getting ready for the wedding. We signed the ketubah in the small gazebo, and then the processional followed out to the chuppah on the beach.

It was breathtaking. The best part??? They found a steel drum player that learned the melody to Sunrise Sunset, the traditional song from Fiddler on the Roof. He played the song while we walked down to the chuppa. By the time we were all gathered, there were probably a hundred people gathered outside to watch the wedding, and they stayed and listened to the whole thing!

We almost had a small problem, though, during the ceremony. It was HOT – I mean H-O-T, and Evelina was getting a little light headed. I thought she wasn’t going to be able to make it – but thankfully, an amazing cool breeze came along, and saved the day. I sang the Priestly blessing, recited the 7 blessings, and overall, it was a beautiful ceremony. What made it even more beautiful was that the sun was setting just as the ceremony was over. We enjoyed a champagne toast on the beach – and then it was on to the pool deck, for a private reception.

The rest of the weekend was fun and relaxing. By the time today rolled around, I felt like I had made amazing new friends, and was sooo sad to leave them. Both Evelina’s and Felix’s parents were so lovely, welcoming, friendly, and incredibly kind to me. They both made it a special point to let me know how happy they were that I was there, and I felt great about our connections. F&E’s friends – well, what can I say? I had some VERYYYYYYY interesting conversations with them all, (Russian summer camp was quite a different experience) and I was so impressed at how classy, bright, and beautiful (inside and out) they all were. Vlad, Tanya, Shilana, Max & Anna – you all made my weekend such a beautiful memory! I hope you all keep in close touch, and let me know when those next 2 proposals happen! I’m going to be looking for them.

But, the most beautiful part of all, was Felix and Evelina, themselves.

This morning, as we took our last dip in the water, Felix asked me if I had a good time. “Of course!”, I said. “I had a simply amazing time”. But I knew at that moment, that he was really concerned about my happiness, and he told me that it really mattered to him that I enjoyed myself. And I thought – how amazing is that? He was worried about ME having fun? They opened their hearts to me, generously included me for 3 full nights, and Felix was worried that I was having fun? Yes, Felix. I had an amazing time. And yes, definitely one of the best! And once again, my life is richer for having you and Evelina in my heart, and for having shared your most incredible memories with me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Please send my love to your families, and know that our special memories will live long in my heart. I am so blessed to have known you all.
Love, Peace, and Blessings,

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A couple of months ago, Shirley Fuchs sent me an email, asking me if I could officiate a small, private wedding ceremony on Hollywood Beach, for her daughter, Dana, and her Fiancee, Shawn. “No Problem!”, I said! Well…she went on to tell me that there were just a few details that I might have a difficult time with, as Dana and Shawn were just a little bit – kooky. (In a beautiful way, for sure!)

“Kooky?”, I asked? “Yes, Kooky”, she replied. I wondered if this meant something “off color”, or something that would not quite go along with the fact that I am a member of the clergy, but she assured me it was completely clean, and quite adorable. You see, they have a 3 year old daughter, Destiny, and they wanted a cartoon character to perform their wedding – and they wanted their officiant to “dress up” in a costume they would provide. MMHMM, I said. And just what character would they like to have their officiant dress up as?

DORA, THE EXPLORER, her mother said.

MMHMM, I said – again. We’re talking August, on the beach in Florida, and you want me to dress up as DORA? Right. She told me they were looking for someone open minded, fun, easy going, and very much a team player. Well, that’s me. But DORA?

What the heck, I figured. You only live once, and like Wayne tells me all the time – I have to cut loose, have some fun, and take a walk on the lighter side of life. So – we agreed. They provided the costume, and I would take a hit for the team! Boy, did I ever. But – I got so much more than I bargained for. Once again, Dana and Shawn were the sweetest couple, and I fell in love with them. They had 21 guests on the beach, and dinner at the Marriott on Hollywood Beach, and there was me – in my Dora costume.

Even though this was a small, private wedding, I still felt I needed to spend the time getting to know them. So, we spoke several times by phone, before they arrived in FL, and we met the morning before the wedding. In that hour, I found out some great information that ended up providing tons of humor for their wedding ceremony. I knew I was going to need to get creative – but this really should have won an academy award!

You’ll have to read their ceremony. I really think I did a great job, if I do say so, myself. We had tons of laughs, I found a new “niche” for my wedding practice, and Dana and Shawn had the wedding of their dreams. I am definitely going to put a video of this wedding up as soon as I can figure out how, but for now – just check out the ceremony. It is sure to provide a few laughs! Dana & Shawn – I can’t tell you how much I LOVED being part of your day! More couples should be as light hearted and fun loving as you! Thanks!

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