I tried all the way home to write my blog entry about this past weekend’s destination wedding at La Salamandre on the French Side of St. Maarten, 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 and 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 Jewish-Interfaith 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.
Keith and 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 Jewish-Interfaith wedding ceremony itself. But, what seems to rank my destination 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 and Rita in Mexico, to Felix and Evelina in Aruba, and now Keith and Faith in St. Maarten, it is absolutely the people I fall in love with. And this destination wedding was no exception.
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 and Ken, and some were friends of Faith’s Mom – Vicky, and the rest were friends of Keith and 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 and Ken’s closest friends at a little before party in their room. My favorites of their friends were Mike and Jane, Linda and Barry, and Steve and 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 and Rabbi. 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!!
I was very lucky to have found another “soul sister” on this trip – Dionne, who is Faith’s sister.
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 and 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 destination 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 destination wedding itself was magnificent. From the caterers, to the steel drum band, to the DJ, the bartenders, and the wedding photographers (they were incredible – I can’t wait to link to them and see their photos!) this wedding ceremony 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 destination 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 destination 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 Jewish-Interfaith 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 destination wedding 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!
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.
Marge – I can’t wait to be your friend, and I’m coming to Woodstock to visit!! Steve, one of Marge and 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!
Want to create your own “dream come true wedding”? Contact Cantor Debbitoday to see how you can co-create the event of your dreams.
PS: And don’t forget to stop by our sample ceremonies page to see what your ceremony might look like!