Our shotgun wedding
Most of you know that Adam and I went to Europe last September on an amazing trip I won from Whole Foods Market after making this video; and that we got engaged in Paris. You also may know that we spent a lot of time last October and November looking at venues. We planned to get married in October 2012.
In the midst of all this excitement, Adam’s 100-year-old Bubbe, who was the last person to leave her 200-person birthday party last summer, started weakening. She was very frail over Thanksgiving, and had to spend much of the weekend in the hospital. We kept telling Bubbe that she had to stay strong for our wedding the next fall. She would say, “honey, I’d love to be there, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it. It’s up to the big guy,” and then would roll her eyes upward. After Thanksgiving, neither Adam nor I could deny that even if Bubbe got stronger, she wouldn’t be able to travel to Austin to be with us at our wedding.
My parents were coming to Texas during the Christmas holiday, and Adam and I decided to plan a small wedding then, in hopes that Bubbe could be there with us. My wonderful brother Jeff was the only immediate family member who had to book a last-minute plane ticket, which he did without hesitation.
At first, the wedding was going to be held at Bubbe’s Jewish nursing home, which had a small chapel. However, she continued to decline, and by the second week in December, she had been moved to the Houston Hospice. Her condition would improve for a few days, and then she would be sleeping deeply and impossible to wake up for over a day. In the meantime, we discovered that we could have a wedding ceremony at the hospice — either in Bubbe’s room, or in the chapel. We also spoke with a local rabbi on the phone who agreed to officiate for a Sunday morning ceremony on Christmas Day.
Eight days before the planned event, Adam and I drove down to Houston to see Bubbe and to meet with the rabbi to discuss details. Bubbe was in good spirits, and was mostly aware of what was happening that Saturday. She had about six different visitors in her room at once, she was eating, telling stories, laughing, and grabbing hold of our hands tightly. It was such a hopeful, lovely day.
The next morning, we went to see Bubbe before driving home to Austin. She was sound asleep and didn’t wake up all day. We began to worry again about whether she would make it a whole week. The roller coaster continued as the days leading up to our wedding ceremony crawled forward. The day before the ceremony, Bubbe was sleeping all day. I began to wonder if we should go through with it. There would be many beloved friends and family who could not join us, and I wondered if we would regret going through with the ceremony if Bubbe wasn’t truly aware of what was happening.
Adam spent the day with my dad and brother shopping for a new tie and pocket square. I went with Paula, Adam’s mom to pick up my bouquet — which we had made at Whole Foods for $14 — and Adam’s boutonniere. They dropped me off at my parents hotel so that I could have a nap. When I woke up, Adam and I talked on the phone and discussed whether Bubbe’s condition the next day would inform whether or not we had the ceremony. We decided that we would go through with it regardless, so that when she had a good day, we could show her the pictures and tell her about it. I felt relieved that we had made a decision.
That evening, the families went out to dinner at Houston’s beloved Jewish deli — Kenny & Ziggy’s — a fitting “rehearsal dinner” location as it was one of Bubbe’s favorite restaurants, and a favorite of the Holzband family for many years. Later, Adam and I spent the evening with a group of our friends — some who were visiting family for the holidays, some who had driven in for the ceremony. It was a very laid back “bachelor/bachelorette party” without a stripper in sight.
As we were leaving our friends house at around midnight, I got a call on my cell phone from my mom — the power had gone out in the hotel and I had planned on staying there with her there. She told me that it was dark and cold — the temperature was below freezing — and she was worried about what we would do for hot showers and electricity to get ready the next morning. I decided to stay there anyway — all of my clothes were already in her room — and told my friends Ilyse and Jessica that if the power was out in the morning, we would drive over to their house to get ready.
I barely slept that night due to my anticipation, inability to warm up, voices of the electric repair crews outside the building and concern that we would oversleep. In the middle of the night, the power was finally restored and I managed to get a couple hours of rest.
It was a lot of fun getting ready with my mom, and even more so when Ilyse, Jessica, my dad, and my brother all joined us in the room.
At the hospice, Adam went with his parents to get Bubbe ready. Lenny described the scene in an email he sent later that week:
“When we arrived at the hospice, Mom was not totally responsive, but as soon as Adam walked in the room, she put out her arms and her face lit up and she told him she loved him.”
Paula and some of the nurses got Bubbe dressed and in a wheelchair. She was brought down to the hospice chapel. In the meantime, Adam and I greeted the couple dozen friends and family who had gathered in one of the sitting rooms. There was a Christmas tree in one corner which was very appropriate in that it was Christmas morning. Rabbi Pam Silk gathered together me and Adam, and the three friends we had asked to join us to sign our ketubah — David L., Jessica, and Jen S.
After the ketubah signing ceremony, everyone went into the chapel, led by Rabbi Pam Silk and Cantor Vadim Tunitsky of Houston’s Congregation Emanu El. My brother Jeff and our friends Kenny P., Jill S., and Ilyse held the chupah while our friends David and Aaron took pictures and video. Bubbe was in her wheelchair right in front of the stage, surrounded by her dear friend Evelyn, and her granddaughter Melanie.
My parents walked me down the aisle, and Adam waited for me to join him at the end.
Both of our parents surrounded the chupah on the stage, and Adam and I circled each other, and then walked under the chupah together. We looked over at Bubbe and smiled at her, and could tell that she was happy to be there, and able to focus for much of the ceremony, but it was clearly a great effort for her.
The rabbi and cantor led a beautiful ceremony, and the cantors gorgeous voice added another layer of emotion to the day.
After the ceremony, we each gave Bubbe a big hug and kiss, and she told us she loved us very much.
We snapped a few family photos, and I gave Bubbe my bouquet to hold. She started joking around, and was waving the flowers around a bit, making everyone smile.
Paula then took Bubbe back up to her room, and with the help of the nurses, got her tucked into her bed, where she immediately fell asleep. Adam and I joined her in the room, and sat next to her bed while she slept.
I felt a mixture of joy and sadness, realizing that this was both our first quiet moment as husband and wife, and also our last visit with Adam’s beloved Bubbe. We cried and held each other, kissed Bubbe’s forehead, held her hand, and told her we loved her. As we were saying our last goodbyes, her eyes fluttered open and she looked directly at Adam, telling him she loved him.
We then went to the house to enjoy bagels and lox, chocolate cake, champagne, and time to visit with those who came to celebrate with us. That afternoon, we drove back to Austin with my parents — them in the front seat, us in the back.
Adam and I hosted my parents and brother to dinner at the Four Seasons lobby lounge, and we shared a bottle of champagne that a group of our friends from New York City had sent to our room.
It was a beautiful and unforgettable wedding day.
- A Paris Engagement
- The Bubbe Chronicles Vol. 1: Eating with Bubbe
- Bessie H: Your Life in Food
- Our Austin Engagement Shoot