The Wedding of Katie Miles to Jeffrey Shainline
July 7th, 2018
The Chautauqua National Historic Landmark
For years they sat alone in their homes. Alone, but not lonely, his nose was in books about cosmology and neural computing, hers in books about best practice and pedagogy. There is no time for boredom (and certainly not dating) when life is rich with the pursuit of personal passions. As a result, their careers and professional endeavors were full of achievement, but their love lives left something to be desired.
After spending so many years out of the dating scene, where does a professionally-minded millennial find connection? Online, of course.
After going through the motions of online dating for a few months, Katie was underwhelmed by average Joes and Jeff was feeling very out of place in cyberspace. Both were ready to throw in the towel and return focus to work. But then, one evening in a park, Jeff thought he'd just take one last look.
There she was, in his daily "hot matches", a face he'd never seen but he swore he somehow knew. He messaged her and she replied. They spoke on the phone, and he couldn't have been more impressed. She was articulate, funny, kind, and interesting. He was characteristically long-winded. Still, when he asked her to join him on a hike, she agreed.
In the parking lot at the trailhead, she pulled her car into the space opposite his, and through the glare of two windshields he saw the face he had known but never seen, loved but not yet met. It was a strangely misty afternoon in Boulder on August 3rd, 2017.
"Do you think I'll need my vest?" she asked. "I don't know. I won't get cold," he boasted, awkwardly. She got her vest. "Do you think it's gonna sprinkle?" he asked. "I don't know. I won't get wet," she bested him.
They hiked through the hills for hours as the air, once heavy with fog, began to lift. Katie described her passion for teaching, her family history, and her travels in Spain. Jeff explained his theory of the role of sentient beings in cosmological natural selection. He was weakened by her beauty and her wisdom. She listened intently to what some might consider incoherent blather.
As the sun was going down he nervously asked, "Can I see you again?" Without hesitation, she said yes.
On the second date, he cooked for her. They talked for hours over dinner and a moonlit walk. On the third date, they were back in the mountains, and he was sure she was the woman of his dreams. So much depth and so much heart. After two months, he moved all his things into her home. After four months he wanted to be with her forever.
In the mountains, on a bridge over Bear Creek, he got down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage. She agreed, and they wept. Passers by stopped to ask if they needed help. They did not—in that moment, they had everything they'd need.
Jeff is a physicist at the National Institute of Standards in Technology. Katie teaches 7th and 8th grade Language Arts in Boulder Valley School District. Their noses are often still in books, but now they read on a couch right next to each other. They also spend time hiking, laughing at each other's jokes, and enjoying an occasional beer at the local brewery.
What is a wedding?
What is a wedding anyway? A joining, a bringing together, a merger? Not quite. Or, at least, not entirely. It is also an opportunity to believe. It is a belief statement. It's two people standing before their tribes asking for everyone to believe. Asking for belief in their choice, in this action.
It is two individuals standing in front of the people who made them—who built their character, who sacrificed on their behalf, who taught them how to see and be in the world and proclaiming: I'm choosing to join my life with another's, and I'm asking for you to believe in our potential, in our future, in our promise to each other.
A wedding is more than just a moment of transition in life, more than a rite of passage. It is a barn raising.
It is two communities merging. They fuse together like cells and it's overwhelming, the tsunami of love that it takes.
It's also a reminder of what it means to be human. As we story our future, we want settings and conflicts and characters around us to grow with. To share in experience. To challenge. To be human with. And it comes with great risk.
But that risk must always be outshined by the possibility. That’s what a wedding ceremony is. It is an act of possibility in a world where the impossible can weigh heavy on us everyday.
It is also an occasion of vulnerability. It's admitting that one or both of us will need your support—whether to lend an ear, or advice, or a down payment—we will need our tribes. So, yes. It is a celebration of two individuals choosing to join their lives. But it is also a celebration of the foundational importance of family.
We can hardly comprehend what to do with the amount of love and support it takes to raise this barn. Except to acknowledge. To pulse with gratitude. To smile and say, thank you.
Welcome. This is deep and sacred land; Boulder Valley has long been a meeting place for tribes and council, today we call upon this land to hold space once again. "Chautauqua" is an Iroquois word for "two moccasins tied together", a beautiful image of partnership. It is so fitting that Jeff and Katie have chosen this place, and this time, to join together: to celebrate their love, commitment, and the gift of the other.
Hi everyone, I'm Alison, Jeff's older sister. I've known Jeff for 36 years and Katie since last October when I invited myself and my family over to her house under the guise of bringing them food. When I listened to Jeff talk about her, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer to meet this person he loved so much. After leaving their house, I cried in the car, because I knew that Jeff had met the person I always hoped he would.
When Jeff and I were growing up, I had the advantage of being older and therefore bigger and stronger. I got used to being able to win for a while. Jeff was typically agreeable and didn’t seem to mind. I don’t know exactly how old we were but I remember when he started to use his wit and intellect to gain back some of the power. His arguments were so much better than mine and his comebacks so much quicker. Fortunately at this time I was still bigger so I fought back by stepping on him.
Well, Jeff naturally got bigger and stronger than me, but learning to manage his intellect turned out to be both a challenge and a blessing. At times his classes seemed mundane and it was hard for him to respect his teachers and lessons. In boredom, he sometimes turned to sarcasm instead of applying himself. But when Jeff came home from his first semester at Humboldt University in Northern California, he had developed a love and curiosity for science, literature and music. His desire to learn and understand had been ignited and since then these passions have occupied the majority of his time. There were many nights when he wondered if he had enough room in his life for a relationship and his intellectual pursuits. I understood but couldn’t help but wonder if he would change his mind when the right person came along. Because with Jeffrey there certainly is the drive and desire to pursue his interests. But he is also extremely loving, passionate, loyal and kind. I wondered what type of person would help him balance these two parts of his personality.
I remember the first day he told me about Katie after they had been out on only one date. In the way he talked about her, I could tell she was special and that he knew it, too. I was hopeful but know that dating can be hard. I tried to not get too attached or give my opinion on the relationship. Two months later, when they decided to move in together, I knew I could finally get excited.
Katie, I want to officially welcome you to our family. You are thoughtful, kind, intelligent and independent. You have many of your own passions and honor the passions that Jeff has in his life. I love that you appreciate all the unique parts of him but I know that you’ll be able challenge him when it’s needed. I have loved how thoughtful, playful and caring you are with my children, Ainsley and Elliot. They are so excited to have you as their Aunt Katie.
Being married and having a family aren't easy but I don’t think it matters if you’ve know each other for 30 years or less than 1. In your relationship, I see love, respect, patience and determination. You both knew that you wanted to make room for each other in your already full lives as soon as you met. I am so excited for you both to experience all of the adventures and challenges that await. I feel so lucky that we get to be a part of your life together. We love you.
We met just over there, on the other side of the Enchanted Mesa. The sky was dynamic and the air was cool—an anomaly for Colorado in August. The evening sun sent spires overhead, yet it was calm, as if we were being told there was more to come than we could possibly imagine. But it was safe. We could drink the rain. We walked until close to dark, through the forest, sharing the outlines of our stories.
On our third date, at the south end of the flatirons, above El Dorado canyon, you described being here as a kid, walking with your dad, the way he taught you to look, and touch, and think about the world. You talked about what this place means to you. Without saying the words atom or planet or universe you expressed what this place feels like to me. Electricity bolted through me as the depth of your beauty started charging me.
Back in 2013, when the floods came, I hiked up to the base of Bear Canyon on the heaviest day of the rains. I watched as the rushing river—usually a gentle stream—hurdled rocks like popcorn, carved the canyon six feet deeper where the trail crossed the creek. I thought about the way life shapes us, the way the world carves us out. Then in 2017, on the day after Thanksgiving, you and I were hiking that trail. I found a jewelry heart amidst the gravel, and at that spot where the flood had deepened the canyon, a bridge had been built—sufficient flow and sufficient strength to handle the thousand-year flood. You stood and watched the water as it made its way downstream. I knelt and offered you the heart I found and asked if you would marry me. Thank the skies, you agreed.
Now, here we stand at the north end of the rocks with the people we love, the forces that have shaped us, and I'm even more sure now than I was on that day in November that we have what it takes to withstand the droughts and rains. I've watched you prepare for this. I've watched you think about what it means to marry me. I've watched you build structures in your heart and in your mind to adapt to this great challenge. You were already strong alone, but I've felt you grow so solid as a partner. I trust you with my life. I could not be more proud of you, the woman who will be my wife...in just a minute.
Here we stand, on the last day of our separate lives and the first day of our joined life. Like the river shapes the canyon, I want you to shape the rest of my days. I want to drink from your stream and weather your storms. My love, please trust that I will cherish you so deeply, through all the seasons, all the changes. Here we stand, having seen the lightning of our love, but before we’ve heard the thunder of the joy of our lives together. My love, I am yours forever.
On our first date your eyes glinted green and sincere. They matched the tall pine trees around us, both in color and vitality. As we hiked that day, you spoke fervently about theories of the universe. You were talking about black holes so quickly that I thought man, he must be really nervous! I would soon learn that this is just how you talk about the ideas that interest you. This intellectual ambition of yours was one of the first qualities I fell in love with.
I would also soon learn that falling in love with you didn't feel like falling at all. Instead it felt grounded, natural, strong.
And so, even though it all happened quickly, we came in strong. We came to each other with roots already established, already standing, individually, upon sturdy foundation. Already knowing ourselves and what we want from others, already achieving in careers we love. When we came to each other, it wasn't because we were lacking in something. Instead, what we found in each other was true partnership.
In this partnership, we get to continue pursuing our individual goals - together. In this partnership, we get to support and challenge each other, to celebrate and reflect with each other, to strive forward—together. Our story begins with the choice to be together. This marriage is not one of convenience, it wasn't arranged, neither of us is settling here.
We are here today because we choose each other. Today, we act on the decision to join our lives. Here, in this historic place, we begin our own history. Who knows which scenes from our life story will be etched into memory as important chapter markers. Today surely will. As will, perhaps, the day a child is born, and the day we lose a loved one. But no great story survives on plot alone.
The best stories come alive in the details. It is the small moments in between that matter most. It’s in the daily, connective tissue where we see flaws and growth in our character. It’s in the everyday moments of teamwork and laughter and listening. It’s making popcorn on a Sunday night. It’s the way you hold my hand when it’s cold outside. It's in the joy that fills me when I hear you laugh. It’s the way we treat each other—acts of intimate kindness large and small even when it’s hard—that’s at the heart of a real love story.
And so, today, as I look into your green eyes, glinting with the greenery that surrounds us, I am proud to become your wife. Proud to make the ultimate promise to each other, and co-write our story. Jeff Shainline, I am endless for you.
Do you, Jeff/Katie, take Katie/Jeff to be your wife/husband and life-long companion to cherish in your heart and hold in your arms, to love and respect with integrity, as you experience the joys and hardships of your life from this day forward?
Jeff/Katie: I do.
Jeff/Katie, as you place the ring on Katie’s/Jeff's finger, please repeat after me:
I Jeff/Katie vow a lifelong commitment to you
To love you deeply and patiently
To treat you like the most valuable aspect of my world
To be my best self for you and accept you when you falter
To laugh at your jokes, when deserving
To honor your emotional, physical, and intellectual needs
To celebrate and support you in your life work as it is our life work
As your life partner until I return to the earth.
Let this ring symbolize these vows I make to you as your husband/wife.