Edie Weinstein is learning the meaning of love, commitment and devotion after standing at the altar at least 300 times.
Fingers are fluttering gracefully as I speak from a stage facing the guests, many of whom are ‘listening’ with rapt attention. An ASL interpreter stands next to me, translating to them what I am saying. Another ‘terp’ is among the guests signing for the bride and groom who are perched like queen and king next to each other on their respective thrones, facing their families and friends. I am between this lovely young couple; she with porcelain skin and strawberry blond hair, he dark and dashing. Both professionals for a well known school for the deaf; neither of them can hear what I am saying as the ceremony we have written together is shared with their loved ones. Cosmically coincidentally, I had just taken an 8 week ASL course taught by a social worker who, although not born deaf as were this couple, she lost her hearing gradually. In addition to the alphabet and signs for thoughts functional and fanciful, she taught us about deaf culture. For many, being deaf is not a birth defect, but another way of being human. Clearly there was nothing defective about this couple or their guests.
As I stood in the middle, I could feel myself caught in a vortex of love. I joked with them after the ceremony that I appreciated their patience with me, since I was clearly in the minority. Most people there either spoke sign language or Polish since the bride’s family hailed from Poland.
From them, I learned that love speaks in tones that may only be heard with the heart.
The sky is foreboding, the pseudo calm after the storm. Winds still kicking up, the mud-grass squishy and threatening to swallow up the feet of guests, bride and groom who have gathered to celebrate the marriage of a Brooklyn born Jewish man and a Korean born Christian woman. A few days earlier, hurricane force winds and torrential rains pounded the region. With no contingency plan, the groom’s uncle went on to prepare copious amounts of food at the home of a neighbor, a mile down the road, since they had their power restored. Porta-potties lined the property and a generator was used to plug in my boom box so I could play the music they had chosen for the ceremony. As I set up the altar that included candles and a vase of lovely flowers, they kept blowing over. The groom’s uncle sighed and said that this was all happening by the hand of the groom’s mother (his sister) who had recently passed. I questioned why even in spirit, she would sabotage her son’s wedding. He laughed and responded that it was because she didn’t approve that he was Gay and in relationship with another man, and wouldn’t have wanted him hosting, so she was tweaking him. Even if that was so, did she really have the power to rattle the heavens? The ceremony was lovely, with both dressed in traditional Korean costumes and the bride’s mother and friends performing with taiko drums during the reception.
From this experience, I learned that love is the strongest force of nature.
Two beautiful young women decked out in jeans and white shirts; tattoos embellishing their arms and backs, barefoot on the carpeted living room of their suburban Delaware home, ready to make a formal declaration to join their hearts and lives. One a nurse, one a teacher; both cancer survivors. The ceremony was my first official Delaware same sex wedding. Their engagement placed them on the main stage in Central Park in August of 2013 as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were performing at a concert sponsored by Good Morning America. In front of thousands of people, the question was popped and the answer was a resounding yes. The cameras were rolling as the song Same Love echoed through the park. The next day they were guests on the show. During the ceremony, they chose to incorporate the Jewish ritual of breaking the glass. Remember I said that both were barefoot? I had them don footwear in preparation. In halfway measure, they each put a shoe on the stomping foot. One had laced on a sneaker and the other slid into what she called her ‘shit-kicker boot’. When the time came, the sneakered foot actually landed more solidly, making a powerful popping sound. I reminded them that it symbolized the idea that hearts and lives can be fragile and need to be handled with care and for as many shards of glass that remained, that’s the number of years of happiness they would be wished.
In this case, I learned that love trumps illness and even homophobia, since there were some in their lives that didn’t give a thumbs up to their marriage.
A seasoned couple, surrounded by children, children in-law and grandchildren take a monumental step on a journey that began two decades earlier as they met at a Parents Without Partners meeting. He a handsome Cuban Jew and she a beautiful American Christian; it was love at first sight. They quickly merged their lives. He helped to raise her two sons who became like his own. One of ‘their’ sons married a woman who is a friend of mine which is how I got the gig. My friend’s adorable diva-daughters (5 year old twins and a 7 year old) clung to the bride and groom who they called Bubbe and Papi, throughout the ceremony. During the sharing of their vows, emotion overtook him and he sobbed. She dabbed at her eyes as she comforted him and then everyone laughed as he said he was glad that she “taught him to be a masseus-er” to massage away her aches and pains.
On this day I learned that love knows no age limit and that ‘making an honest man or woman out of someone’ can take place at any time.
Three countries came together as an Indian born Hindu woman chose to follow her stars and her heart to marry an Italian born, South American raised Catholic man. One of the delights of the ceremony were that all of the women in the family, including his, wore belly baring saris and were elaborately decorated with mehndi, otherwise known as henna tattoos. Every year now, at Christmas, I receive a post card from them that has a picture of their beautiful daughter who is around 6 or 7 now.
And finally, I learned that cultural differences spice up our lives in the way that curry and oregano enhance the most delicious dishes.
It may come as a surprise that a nice Jewish girl named Edie Weinstein became an interfaith minister. The path to the clerical calling was meandering and unexpected. I had been raised attending synagogue and Hebrew school until I was 16. I studied various religions in college, chose a sampling from the options laid out on the buffet and it whetted my appetite for even more spiritual sustenance. I like to say “Love is my religion and God’s too big to put in a box.”
When my husband was in the last year of his life, he had enrolled as a student at The New Seminary in NYC, preparing to be ordained as an interfaith minister. I studied casually along with him, since I had no desire to claim that title for myself. Since he was ill, I read to him, watched the class videos and listened to the tapes. I typed his papers because he had neuropathy in his fingers. On the last day of his life, immediately after life support was discontinued, I heard The Voice speak in a gender neutral tone, instructing me to “Call the seminary and ask to finish what Michael started.” When the Divine speaks, I usually listen and follow through.
A few days later I was on the phone with the dean who welcomed me and said that as long as I was enrolling for myself and not just for Michael, I could join the class. If I wanted to graduate when Michael would have, I would need to do both years worth of work simultaneously or could wait until the next year. With unbridled enthusiasm and using my studies as a way of staunching the flow of grief, I completed the course material in 6 months and walked down the aisle of the majestic cathedral of St. John The Divine in Manhattan ensconced in the white robe that has seen me through 15 years of altar bound couples as I offer them this blessing:
“Today and every day, may you see the magnificent light of Love shining in each other’s eyes. May you know the comfort that comes with the certainty that the one who stands before you is the perfect reflection of yourself. Allow him/her to be your most ardent admirer, while letting love be the stone with which you polish yourselves, smoothing away the hardened edges. May you bring out the shadow side of each other and then consign it to the light. May you bring out the highest in each other and celebrate it to the fullest. And may your love be a glorious example to the world. So it is.”