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Todayâ€™s blog post brings us well into wedding planning processâ€”as well as to a few other relationship landmarks.
Last week we celebrated Justinâ€™s birthday, which we do in a traditional (to him, not so much to me) wayâ€”with a King Cake. The King Cake is a Mardi Gras custom (Mardi Gras being part of the Carnival celebrations that occur immediately before the observance of Lent)â€”and Justinâ€™s family has roots in the Bayou of Louisiana.
With his birthday falling so close to Mardi Gras each year, itâ€™s become a tradition for his Grandparents (who live just over the Louisiana border in Mississippi) to send him a King Cake.
Before meeting Justin Iâ€™d never had a King Cake. Now itâ€™s something I look forward to each year. This purple, green, and gold cake is topped with frosting and sugar, and from the time it arrives until weâ€™ve eaten it all, every meal involves cake. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, mid-day, and midnight snacks all involve King Cake. (And, as we are adults, we have deemed it okay if one wants to have a slice of cake before dinner.)
The most important part of the King Cakeâ€”besides it being delicious and often arriving in the same box as Mardi Gras beadsâ€”is that it comes with a plastic baby Jesus hidden inside the cake. Itâ€™s good luck if you find the baby in your piece of cake.
And, every year that weâ€™ve celebrated with a King Cake, Iâ€™ve always ended up Jesus-less.
Somehow that plastic baby is always in one of Justinâ€™s slices of cake. (Perhaps thereâ€™s a secret to finding the King Cake baby that Iâ€™ve missed out on? My ability to always find the Afikoman at a Passover Seder does not seem to translate to the King Cakeâ€™s hidden Jesus.)
Justinâ€™s Jesus finding skills did, however, set us up for a fantastically cheesyÂ exchange this year about how he was the one with the luckâ€”thus he gets to marry meâ€”and I was the one without the luckâ€”hence I was stuck marrying him.
This year, weâ€™re hoping that little plastic baby Jesus is going to bring us some mutual luckâ€”especially as we move from the theoretical planning into actually putting the plan into action.
I love telling our â€śhow we metâ€ť story, because if you donâ€™t know us, itâ€™s pretty unexpected. And, if you do know us, well, our beginnings make a lot of sense.
We met three years ago in Guatemala City, both having traveled there for a photography workshop. My first impression of Justin was that he was a skinny hipster. (Youâ€™ll have to ask him what his first impression of me was.)
On (what we now realize was our first date) we climbed an active volcano just outside of Antigua. At the top we roasted marshmallows on the volcanoâ€™s natural heat sources and felt like we were on a completely new planet. On the way down, distracted by taking pictures and pausing to climb trees, we got momentarily separated from the group and started practicing, in our very limited Spanish vocabulary, the phrases we might need to get a ride back into town. Eventually, we found our bus back.
Afterwards, covered in dirt, we went out for dinner.
A few months later, on a camping trip in Pennsylvania, Justin broke his T-12 vertebrae and severed his spinal cord incompletely. After being life flighted to a hospital, a seven-hour surgery, and a week in the ICU, we both felt the intensity and realness of our relationship. (Iâ€™ve written previously for IFF about how I processed praying for Justin, when our faiths were so different.) The next few months I traveled back and forth between Boston and the rehabilitation hospital in Philadelphia where he was recovering.
These days we live just outside of Boston in Salem, Massachusetts. Weâ€™re both photographers, and Iâ€™m part of the communications team at Keshet. Our day-to-day life of marathoning TV shows, looking for photography work, and teaching ourselves how to cook is punctuated by weekend adventuresâ€”itâ€™s not abnormal for me to go into work on a Monday and answer the question of â€śwhat did you do this weekendâ€ť with â€śwe ended up in the middle of New Hampshire and met some people who were ice fishing in the middle of a frozen lakeâ€¦â€ť
Our proposal story is the flip side of how we metâ€”but, much like our first date, it makes complete sense if you know us.
There was no big romantic moment, but a long discussion. After several years of dating we knew how we felt about each otherâ€”the question was more how we felt about marriage. In many ways, deciding to get married made a lot of sense. In other ways, it was more of a stretch. We went back and forth about wedding hypotheticals and what would be important to each other. For me, having a Jewish ceremony was the most meaningful part of taking our commitment to the next level. For him, having a large gathering where all of our family and friends could be part of a celebration was essential.
Our decision to get married was just thatâ€”a joint, mutual decision. We both asked each other, we both agreed. We kept the news to ourselves for a while, just to see how it felt. A few weeks later we got a ring from my family, and we made it official. And, weâ€™ve set a date: 9.26.15.
Weâ€™re pretty excited to share our story with IFFâ€™s Wedding Blog. Storytellingâ€”with photos and with wordsâ€”is a big part of who we are. Weâ€™ll be navigating how to put together a ceremony that feels comfortable and right for my Judaism, appropriate to Justinâ€™s secular belief, and understandable for all of our guests. Weâ€™re trying to plan something on a modest budget, and weâ€™re hoping to do so without going crazy. Iâ€™m sure there will be some surprises along the way, but right now weâ€™re looking forward to our next adventure.